NPR Story
2:27 pm
Thu November 7, 2013

Dolphins Players Defend Richie Incognito

Originally published on Thu November 7, 2013 2:42 pm

Teammates of Miami Dolphins player Richie Incognito are coming out in his defense, after the guard was suspended for alleged bullying.

Incognito’s teammate Jonathan Martin filed a complaint, and made available communications in which Incognito threatened him and used racial slurs.

Miami Herald sports reporter Adam Beasley joins Here & Now’s Robin Young with the latest.

Guest

  • Adam Beasley, sports reporter for the Miami Herald. He tweets @AdamHBeasley.
Copyright 2013 WBUR-FM. To see more, visit http://www.wbur.org.

Transcript

ROBIN YOUNG, HOST:

Well, there are new reports today that Miami Dolphins general manager Jeff Ireland suggested that two players settle a dispute by duking it out. Offensive lineman Richie Incognito has been accused of bullying the rookie Jonathan Martin beyond the normal team hazing. Now, NBC is reporting that general manager Jeff Ireland told Martin's agent that if Martin was having problems with Incognito, he should punch him.

Jeff Ireland wouldn't address the allegations, but in a press conference last night, said he's proud of the team players and coaching staff.

(SOUNDBITE OF PRESS CONFERENCE)

JEFF IRELAND: The type of culture that I've championed since the day that I walked through these doors has been one of honesty, respect and accountability for one another.

YOUNG: Well, previously, there had been reports that the Dolphins management told the veteran Incognito to toughen up the rookie Martin. Meanwhile, Incognito supporter have come forward, and there's speculation - including in the Boston Globe, by reporter Ben Volin, who's covered the Dolphins - that this may be more than a simple story of hero and villain, that Martin, who's seen as a victim, may have ginned up disagreements with Incognito so that he could take a break, but not lose salary.

The NFL has hired Ted Wells, who's a prominent New York lawyer, to do an independent investigation and sort it all out. At stake: reputation and potentially a lot of money. Adam Beasley of the Miami Herald joins us. Adam, this is just the latest. Tell us more about this report that Jeff Ireland suggested that one player punch another.

ADAM BEASLEY: Well, I mean, right now, it's a total tidal wave for the national media, soaking the Dolphins, I mean, completely devouring the team. Every time you look up, there's a new detail. Certainly, this one about Jeff Ireland was the most eyebrow-raising. If, indeed, he did know about Jonathan Martin being the subject of abuse before October 28th, when Martin left the team, and furthermore, if indeed he did tell Martin's representation that Martin should punch Incognito, the lawsuits are going to be endless for this thing.

We know now that Martin has retained counsel. He's most likely going to sue both Incognito and the Dolphins at some point. This thing is just spiraling out of control.

YOUNG: Well, we should say that this report from was ProFootballTalk website. They cited multiple sources to uphold their claim that Ireland did tell Rick Smith - this is the player, Martin's agent - to punch Incognito. But meanwhile, we're also hearing other players, in fact, the majority of players on the team supporting Incognito and saying, in fact, that he and Martin were great friends.

BEASLEY: Oh, for sure. Battle lines have been drawn in this thing. You're either in one camp or the other. You don't - there isn't a lot of sympathy for both people right now, for sure. And certainly, in the Dolphins locker room, they see Incognito as someone who's been railroaded, someone who is obviously crude and has offensive language, but not someone who's a bully. They saw him as a very good friend of Jonathan Martin, and they think now Martin is taking advantage of the situation.

YOUNG: Well, and we're also hearing on CBS this morning from the great former player Jim Brown. He says this is not NFL-wide. Sure, there's some hazing of rookies NFL-wide, but he was going out of his way to say that this is just a problem with the Dolphins. What is the sense of that?

BEASLEY: Far be it for me to argue with a Hall of Famer, but I do think that there is a culture in the NFL that fosters tough love, and this might be tough love gone too far. Certainly, football is a very violent sport. It's a very macho sport. But the idea that you can be able basically say anything you want to your teammate to motivate him seems, to me, beyond the pale.

YOUNG: Well, and we've been reading transcripts of messages that Incognito allegedly left for Martin, racist overtones in them. Look, what happens to the Dolphins going forward? Are they playing Sunday? I mean, what's the sense of where this goes?

BEASLEY: Not only are they playing this weekend, but they're on national television. They're on Monday Night Football, in front of the entire nation to see. It's truly amazing. Look, I think people's jobs are certainly at risk here, but I don't think anyone is going to lose their job until this report comes out. Because right now, all we're getting is basically secondhand and, you know, on - source background. No one's coming out on the record against the Dolphins, against Incognito.

And people who are attacking the team are all doing it anonymously. So, at some point, there's going to have to be some, you know, something written, something codified, something real, a real report saying what the Dolphins did and when they did it. And then the decisions will be made. But I don't think the Dolphins are going to make any moves, personnel-wise, until then.

YOUNG: Meanwhile, Incognito is suspended. Martin left the team to get emotional help. But what does that mean for him, as far as whether or not he comes back?

BEASLEY: Well, he's still on the active roster. He's still collecting a paycheck. He's going to earn $37,000 or so this weekend. And it's unclear how the Dolphins are going to deal with this. If they put him on what's called a non-football injury list, they could conceivably pay him nothing. But I'm sure they're very hesitant to do that, because that would up the ante in the lawsuit.

There's just so many layers to this, and financially is just one of them. You hear he might want to return. I don't see how that's possible. The Dolphins locker room is so against him right now, I don't know how he'd ever have a chance to come back.

YOUNG: It's quite something. Adam Beasley of the Miami Herald, with the latest on the Miami Dolphins. Adam, thanks so much.

BEASLEY: Anytime.

JEREMY HOBSON, HOST:

And a quick check now on another story we're following. With the help of a national nonprofit group, some elementary schools across the country are pushing back against cutbacks in recess time. They're saying playtime is central to learning. That story coming up later on ALL THINGS CONSIDERED. This is HERE AND NOW. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.

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