Jason Taylor wasn't just one of the Miami Dolphins' most accomplished players of this era, he was also one of the team's most respected leaders.
During his final season with the organization Taylor wasn't named a captain by his teammates in 2011, but once coach Tony Sparano noticed most of the team gravitated to him for guidance he eventually became one, getting a "C" placed on his jersey.
That's why his word carries a lot of weight, and why he's part of owner Steve Ross' council of former players and coaches who will put together a new code of conduct policy for the locker room.
However, during a Friday morning conversation with WQAM (560-AM), Taylor strongly criticized the organization for its lack of leadership, which he suspects contributed to the bullying scandal that sideswiped the Dolphins' 8-8 season, and placed the franchise under national scrutiny because it forced offensive lineman Jonathan Martin to quit football in mid-October.
"Jimmy Johnson used to say, either you're coaching it, or allowing it to happen. Either way you're wrong," Taylor said when talking about the Dolphins, which fired offensive line coach Jim Turner and head trainer Kevin O'Neill because of the Ted Wells report's findings.
"It starts with the guys you have in there [the locker room]. Obviously the bell cow isn't the guy who should have been the bell cow," Taylor said, referring to Richie Incognito, whom he played with in 2011.
"To hang the bell around his neck is not the right decision," Taylor said, insinuating he'd seen Incognito in action. "When you're smoking at the gas station and the gas station blows up you shouldn't be surprised."
Incognito, a 2012 Pro Bowl selection, was voted to the Dolphins' leadership council by his teammates before the 2013 season. Even Martin admitted he voted for Incognito to be one of the team's six leader who policed the locker room, and routinely met with head coach Joe Philbin to address issues.
How did Incognito get a role that gave him power and influence? It happened when Philbin jettisoning leaders from the 2012 team. Jake Long, Anthony Fasano and Reggie Bush were not re-signed, and Karlos Dansby and Kevin Burnett were both released. All five were leaders inside the locker room, and had a presence on the team.
Once they were removed players like Incognito and center Mike Pouncey, whose behavior was also criticized in the Wells report, rose to prominent positions.
Incognito, who had a reputation for being one of the NFL's dirtiest players, was the alpha male of the Dolphins locker room. In fact, he sat in a locker stall like no other. It resembled a king's throne because it provided him a view of nearly the entire locker room.
Newcomers like Dannell Ellerbe and Brent Grimes eventually emerged as strong locker room presences in 2013, but Incognito had already set the tone by that time, especially with his unit.
"I've talked to enough guys on the team, I played with Richie. I've seen it. I've heard it. Nobody knew it was that kind of an issue," Taylor said, referring to Incognito's alleged harassment of Martin. "You just wish you can say enough is enough. There has been times in my career I've seen players say, 'that's enough.' "
Taylor, a 15-year veteran, was referring to players who told others that their 'Your momma jokes,' or talking about someone's sister were off limits. Taylor admitted he experienced a good deal of teasing when he returned from his stint with Dancing With the Stars.
Martin admitted in the Wells report that he never spoke up to anyone about his issues, or the inappropriate behavior of the player's in his unit.
When talking about the locker room, Taylor points out: "It is a different culture, a differently world, and it is policed differently. But you have to have strong leadership.
"It starts with leadership, and leadership up top," Taylor said. "Pick up the pieces and put it back together again with good character guys.
"When you have 53 guys on the team everybody isn't going to like everybody," Taylor added. "You don't have to like them, but you certainly need to respect them."
Taylor admitted he has not read the entire Ted Wells report, and said the council, which will establish a new code of conduct policy for the team, spoke before the report was released, but hasn't met yet.
When asked about the possibility of taking on a leadership role with the organization, which is something Taylor has privately expressed an interest in, he told WQAM: "I haven't changed my phone number for a while, but I'm around."
Taylor said he's spoken to Ross and Jorge Perez, Ross' partner and vice chairman, about joining the organization in a front office capacity before. He also mentioned that former Hall of Fame quarterback Dan Marino is interested in working for the team in some capacity again.
"I'm available," Taylor said. "We're around."Copyright © 2015, The Baltimore Sun