A website is reporting that Jonathan Martin’s agent called the Miami Dolphins’ general manager before the player left the team Oct. 28 to complain about his client being harassed by teammate Richie Incognito.
The response by GM Jeff Ireland was for Martin to confront Incognito and “punch” him, Pro Football Talk reported, citing “multiple league sources.”
Incognito, an offensive guard, was suspended Sunday by the team after several media outlets said he left a racially charged, profanity-laced voice mail for Martin in April. Sources told the Sun-Sentinel in South Florida that assistant coaches asked Incognito, a team leader, to “toughen up” Martin after Martin skipped parts of a voluntary offseason workout period.
Martin, an offensive tackle who often lined up next to Incognito, remains excused by the Dolphins and is with family in California.
Two people familiar with the situation told The Associated Press that Martin considered quitting football in the past, one saying it was because of how other offensive linemen treated him. They spoke on condition of anonymity because the organization has not given specific reasons about Martin’s departure.
A Dolphins spokesman has said the team will not comment publicly while the NFL investigates the Martin case.
However, many Miami players did speak Wednesday as the team prepares for Monday night’s game in Tampa against the Buccaneers.
“If you had asked Jon Martin a week before who his best friend on the team was, he would have said Richie Incognito,” quarterback Ryan Tannehill said, on another day when dozens of reporters descended on the team complex. “The first guy to stand up for Jonathan when anything went down on the field, any kind of tussle, Richie was the first guy there. When they wanted to hang out outside of football, who was together? Richie and Jonathan.”
Martin left the team Oct. 28 after being the target of a lunchroom prank by teammates. When Martin sat down to eat, everyone else at the table stood up and walked away. It’s apparently a go-to comedic ploy for the Dolphins; Tannehill and offensive lineman John Jerry both said they’ve been targets of that act in the past, and that it’s typically just laughed off.
This time, however, it has led to questions about not only whether bullying was tolerated, but also the perception that Incognito is racist. Incognito is white. Martin is biracial.
“What’s perceived is that he was a racist, psychopath maniac,” said offensive lineman Tyson Clabo said, defending Incognito. “The reality is Richie was a good teammate, and that Richie and Jonathan Martin were friends, or appeared to be.”
Added Jerry, who is black, speaking about Incognito’s alleged use of a racial slur: “I know the type of person he is and I know he don’t mean it that way.”
How everything inside the Dolphins locker room is meant will now be probed by New York attorney Ted Wells, the NFL’s choice to dig into the matter. Wells has experience with high-profile sports matters, having been involved with special investigations into the Syracuse basketball sexual harassment case and the NBA players union leadership dispute.
Dolphins owner Stephen Ross said the team will cooperate fully with Wells’ investigation.
“The type of culture that I’ve championed since the day I’ve walked through these doors has been one of honesty, respect and accountability to one another,” Miami coach Joe Philbin said. “I consider those to be hallmarks of this program, and I believe our locker room reflects those beliefs. I believe in the men in our locker room, and I believe in our coaching staff.”
Inside that locker room, players defended themselves and head coach Joe Philbin.
“What’s been bothering me is kind of things that you hear from outside this locker room about things that maybe undermine the integrity or the leadership or the type of players and the class of guys that we have here and the class of this organization,” defensive end Cameron Wake said. “I’ve been here five years and coach Philbin has done nothing but turn this organization in a positive direction from top to bottom.”
Wide receiver Brian Hartline said seeing the franchise take hits over the saga was difficult to bear.
“Now we’re able to say our opinion and protect ourselves from being bullied by you guys because we weren’t talking,” Hartline said. “We weren’t fighting back. We never said a word. We had to sit back and listen for a couple of days. We’re kind of tired of it.”
Clabo questioned Martin’s motives in leaving the team.
“I don’t know why he’s doing this,” he said. “And the only person who knows why, his name is Jonathan Martin.”
Clabo said there’s a way the offensive linemen treat one another, that no one is exempt from the ribbing and that it’s done to keep the mood light in the room.
“You have to earn the trust of your teammates in this league,” Clabo said. “No one is going to walk in the door and just automatically be somebody that you want to go into a game with and believe and trust and know that that person’s going to be there when he’s supposed to be there. Those things have to be earned.”
At this point, it’s unknown if Martin will have that trust – or even if he’ll return to the Dolphins, period.
Tannehill said that if either Martin or Incognito returned, he would be inclined to try to move on from this saga.
“All I know about Richie is he’s a great teammate to me,” Tannehill said. “I saw him being a great teammate all the time. Does he like to give guys a hard time? Yes. Does he like to pester guys and have fun? Yes. But he brought a lot of laughter to this locker room, he brought a lot of cohesiveness to this locker room and he was the best teammate that I could ask for.”
Information from The Associated Press was used in this report.