Inside the Panthers

Retired Panthers OT Jonathan Martin says he battled depression, thoughts of suicide during NFL career

Jonathan Martin, 75, retired before the start of training camp after suffering a back injury.
Jonathan Martin, 75, retired before the start of training camp after suffering a back injury. jsiner@charlotteobserver.com

Recently retired Panthers offensive tackle Jonathan Martin shared in a Facebook post Tuesday night that he battled depression throughout his career and attempted suicide on “multiple occasions” during his brief NFL career.

Martin, one of the two main subjects in the Miami Dolphins bullying scandal two years ago, revealed in a lengthy Facebook post his struggles since high school trying to fit in with the crowd and be accepted, in part due to his racial identity as a biracial man.

“Your job leads you to attempt to kill yourself on multiple occasions,” Martin wrote. “Your self-perceived social inadequacy dominates your every waking moment & thought. You’re petrified of going to work. You either sleep 12, 14, 16, hours a day when you can, or not at all. You drink too much, smoke weed constantly, have trouble focusing on doing your job, playing the sport that you grew up obsessed with.”

Martin left the Dolphins in 2013. Independent investigator Ted Wells found that Martin had been subjected to harassment by offensive lineman Richie Incognito that involved racially charged insults and explicit remarks about Martin’s mother and sister. Martin told investigators he considered suicide in 2013 as a result of the bullying.

The 49ers signed him the following year but cut him in the offseason. Carolina picked up Martin off waivers and brought him in organized team activities and minicamp.

In his only interview as a Panthers player, Martin said he had moved on from the bullying scandal.

“All that’s in the past. My focus has always been just moving forward to what’s next,” Martin said when he signed with Carolina. “Now after I’ve spent a year in San Francisco I’m with the Panthers, and just looking forward to my opportunity and making the most of it.”

Martin was considered the top backup at left tackle to Michael Oher before his surprise retirement before the start of training camp. Martin injured his back and decided to retire rather than play through it, possibly have surgery or risk further injury.

“You play another year and a half and get badly injured,” Martin wrote, presumably referring to the back injury this summer. “You want to keep playing, but having broken free of the addiction that football had been, you know inside that risking permanent debilitating injury isn’t worth it. So you retire.”

Martin finishes his post by hoping that sharing his story will help others like himself who have felt like they’re in the margins of society.

“Perhaps sharing your story can help some other chubby, goofy, socially-isolated, sensitive kid getting bullied in America who feels like no one in the world cares about them,” he writes. “And let them know that they aren’t alone.”

Jonathan Jones: 704-358-5323, @jjones9

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