An accomplished hurdler at GlenOak High in Canton, Ohio, and at Ohio State, Hartline still surprises people with his speed. The five-year veteran entered Week 16 on pace to lead the Dolphins in catches for the second straight season.
DAN PATRICK:Do people on the street and friends still ask you about the Jonathan Martin--Richie Incognito controversy?
BRIAN HARTLINE: For a couple of weeks you got, Is Richie coming back? Now it's just about the team.
DP:After Martin left, did people misunderstand what was going on in the Dolphins' facility?
BH: There was a lot of speculation about disarray and all the problems. But really the problems were outside the locker room.
DP:What bothered you most about the coverage two months ago?
BH: Everyone wanted to be the first person to report things. The full story wasn't even out there. There were so many preconceived notions of what Richie and Martin stood for. It was unfortunate to see grown adults jump on a bandwagon when [a problem] didn't really exist.
DP:It seems that Incognito and Martin were closer friends than outsiders realized.
BH: That's what we saw. Everyone was judging everyone in the locker room and saying there's no leadership. Now you're judging my character. We saw friends. Whenever I saw Jon, he was with Richie. If my friends used things that I said to them against me in the media, I would look like the biggest pr--- in the world too.
DP:You've had back-to-back successful seasons and your stats are comparing favorably with Miami legends like Mark Duper and Mark Clayton.
BH: It's amazing how things change. If you told me that two or three years ago, I would have said, "Oh, man, that is so awesome." This year, all I truly care about is being a playoff guy.
DP:Do you mind if we go over some white football player clichés? Tell me if you like these.
BH: I love it.
DP:Do you have a high motor?
BH: I do. If you're not fast, [you have to have] a high motor.
DP:But you are fast.
BH:[Laughs.] I'm an overachiever.
DP:Are you deceptively fast?
BH: I'm a long strider.
DP:A Wes Welker type?
BH: Yeah, the next Wes Welker. I like that.
BH: I don't get that a lot. That's more for linebackers.
BH: Not bad. I think savvy.
BH: Yup. Reliable.
DP:Are these kind of clichés a slap in the face?
BH: Really, they're not. I don't care. What's important to me are my peers, coaches, teams I play against. I just laugh and have fun with it too.
Julius Thomas says his Broncos aren't afraid of the cold. "People talk about our team like we're from San Diego," the tight end told me. "It makes me laugh. It's going to be 32 or below for the rest of the winter [in Denver.] We don't have an indoor practice facility." ... New Washington football coach Chris Petersen thinks going for the biggest name isn't a sound way to find a new coach. "The fit has to be perfect," said Petersen, formerly of Boise State. "That's when the magic happens. Most places, most people don't do great homework." ... Ravens kicker Justin Tucker takes exception to anyone who says the NFL needs to make field goals more difficult. "If we need to narrow the goalposts, then we need to have receivers not wear gloves," Tucker said. "We're just paid to make it look easy, but it's not necessarily easy all the time."
MICHAEL J. LEBRECHT II FOR SPORTS ILLUSTRATED (PATRICK)
ANDY LYONS/GETTY IMAGES (HARTLINE)
PAUL JASIENSKI/AP (THOMAS)
OTTO GREULE JR./GETTY IMAGES (PETERSEN)
ROB CARR/GETTY IMAGES (TUCKER)