According to at least two team sources who have spoken to Omar Kelly of the Sun Sentinel, Miami Dolphins coaches told offensive guard Richie Incognito to "toughen up" teammate Jonathan Martin after Martin missed a voluntary workout in the spring. The team sources told the Sun Sentinel that Incognito, who has been suspended indefinitely after he was accused of using threatening and racially incendiary language against Martin, took the orders too far.
A team spokesperson declined comment when asked by the paper about the accusations, saying that the Dolphins are complying fully with the NFL's current investigation into the team's culture. In a voicemail to Martin, Incognito called Martin a "half-n-----," threatened to kill him, and said that he would slap Martin's mother across the face.
Andrew Abramson of the Palm Beach Post wrote on Wednesday that he's heard the same thing from team sources, adding that the idea was to bring Martin "into the circle."
“[Dolphins center Mike] Pouncey and Incognito, they talk to each other that way -- redneck, [n-word], it doesn’t bother the two of them. It’s how they communicate,” a source told Abramson. “They bond with one another."
Dolphins head coach Joe Philbin, according to sources, told his veterans to "cut out" the rookie hazing, but he did not police what was going on between Incognito and Martin. Martin left the team last week after a lunchroom prank in which Martin was asked to join his linemates at the table, and his teammates then got up and left the table.
"In all my discussions with Jonathan and members of his family, at no time were there any accusations or allegations of misconduct by any members of this team or organization," Philbin said on Monday. "Later on Sunday, we were contacted by one of his representatives where they in fact had some concerns over player conduct that had occurred. We immediately took those concerns very, very seriously ... These players when they walk in this door they feel like they have the best medical care, the best strength and conditioning care, the best coaching, the best fields to practice on, the best technology and the best classrooms to learn in. That’s very important to me. I will tell you if the review shows that this is not a safe atmosphere, I will take whatever measures are necessary to ensure that it is. I have that obligation to the players that I coach on a daily basis, and I will do that. Any questions on that?”
There have been many, and if this report is true, there will be more than ever. Mike Garafolo of Fox Sports was recently told by a former Dolphins offensive lineman that the team's coaches encouraged hazing, with the thought that it would toughen the players up.
Those coaches will of course say that they never expected things to escalate to this degree, but given Incognito's history of aggressive behavior, they'll have to take a lot of responsibility for this.