One of the lingering mysteries in the Dolphins' messy Richie Incognito-Jonathan Martin case has been the lack of backlash toward Incognito from within the team's locker room, despite Incognito referring to Martin as a "half-n-----" on one voicemail.
We may now have an answer, unusual as it may be. Armando Salguero of the Miami Herald reported Wednesday that Incognito is considered "an honorary black man" by his teammates.
"Richie is honarary," one player who left the Dolphins this offseason told me today. "I don't expect you to understand because you're not black. But being a black guy, being a brother is more than just about skin color. It's about how you carry yourself. How you play. Where you come from. What you've experienced. A lot of things."
That explanation seemingly goes hand in hand with what ESPN's Cris Carter said on SportsCenter, following a talk with Miami center Mike Pouncey.
"They love Richie Incognito and they wish he was playing football for them this [Monday]," Carter said, via the Herald.
Receiver Mike Wallace echoed those comments to Salguero, saying, "I don't have a problem with Richie. I love Richie." Cornerback Brent Grimes and tight end Michael Egnew, meanwhile, both stated that Incognito is not racist.
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These were simply the latest twists and turns in a situation that has spiraled out of control on the Dolphins.
Late Tuesday night, the Sun Sentinel's Omar Kelly added gasoline to the fire with a report that head coach Joe Philbin had asked Incognito to "toughen up" Martin. (That report drew comparisons to the "Code Red" issued by Jack Nicholson's character in the movie A Few Good Men.)
But Pouncey told Carter that the prank which set Martin over the edge -- players in the team cafeteria standing up from their table when another player sat down -- "had been played on many Dolphins players 'dozens' of times. Even coach Joe Philbin has been a target of the prank." Whether or not Martin felt unfairly victimized, Pouncey said that Martin had thought of quitting football "long before" going AWOL on Oct. 28.
Which circles the whole discussion back around to that touchy subject of Martin's relationship with his teammates. Whereas Incognito apparently was "an honorary black man," the biracial Martin was not, per Salguero.
"Indeed, Martin was considered less black than Incognito.
"Another former Dolphins employee told me Martin is considered 'soft' by his teammates and that's a reason he's not readily accepted by some of the players, particularly the black players," Salguero wrote. "His background -- Stanford educated and the son of highly educated people -- was not necessarily seen as a strength or a positive by some players and it perpetuated in the way Martin carried himself."
Incognito currently is serving an indefinite, team-issued suspension as the NFL investigates the circumstances of Martin's exit. Salguero reported earlier this week that Incognito will "never play another game" for the Dolphins.
There also remains no set expectation for if and when Martin may return. The Dolphins are expected to place him on the reserve/non-football illness list in the coming days, but it is growing harder and harder to believe that he will suit up for the Dolphins again -- especially with his teammates quicker to have Incognito's back than offer Martin much support.
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