In his first interview since he was suspended indefinitely by his team, Miami Dolphins guard Richie Incognito told Fox Sports' Jay Glazer that his treatment of offensive tackle Jonathan Martin was a product of locker-room culture.
"This isn't an issue about bullying," Incognito said. "This is an issue of my and John's relationship. You can ask anybody in the Miami Dolphins locker room, 'Who had John Martin's back the absolute most?' and they'll undoubtedly tell you [that it was] me. All this stuff coming out ... it speaks to the culture of our locker room. It speaks to the culture of our closeness. It speaks to the culture of our brotherhood. The racism, the bad words ... that's what I regret most, but that is a product of the environment, and that's something we use all the time."
The racism and bad words Incognito refers to came in a voicemail from him to Martin sent in April 2013. In the voicemail, Incognito called Martin a "half-n-----" and made threats against him. In texts to Martin, Incognito made further threats against Martin and his family.
Incognito said that while he understands why eyebrows were raised by that language, "[t]he week before this went down, Jonathan Martin texted me on my phone, [saying] 'I will murder your whole effing family.' Now, did I think Jonathan Martin was going to murder my family? Not one bit. I knew it was coming from a brother. I knew it was coming from a friend. I knew it was coming from a teammate. That just puts in context how we communicate with one another.
"John never showed signs that football was getting to him, or that the locker room was getting to him," Incognito continued. "When I see those words come across the screen [the words he texted to Martin], I'm embarrassed by them. But what I want people to know is that the way Jonathan and the rest of the offensive line, and how our teammates communicate ... it's vulgar. It's not right. I understand why eyebrows get raised, but people don't know how John and I communicate with each other."
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Glazer then asked Incognito about the instance of a white man using the N-word.
"I'm not a racist. To judge me by that one word is wrong. In no way, shape, or form is it acceptable for me to use that word, even if it's friend-to-friend. It's thrown around a lot. It's a word I've heard John use a lot -- not saying it's right for when I did it in the voicemail, but there are a lot of colorful words thrown around in the locker room that we don't use in everyday life. The fact of the matter remains, though, that the voicemail was left on a private voicemail for my friend, and it was a joke."
Incognito claimed that he didn't know his words were hurting Martin.
"I can't sit here and tell you who over-reacted, and who did what. I can just be accountable for my actions.And my actions were coming from a place of love. No matter how bad and how vulgar it sounds, that's how we communicate, and that's how our friendship was. Those are the facts, and that's what I'm accountable for."
Regarding the subject of leadership, Incognito admitted that he let a lot of things slip by.
"As a leader, and as his best friend on the team, that's what has me miffed -- how I missed this. I never saw it coming. When it's on the screen, it sounds terrible. It sounds like I'm a racist pig. It sounds like a lot of things that it's not. I wanted to clear the air by saying that I'm a good person. If you go by all the knucklehead stuff I've pulled in the past, you're thinking, 'This guy's a loose cannon. This guy's a terrible person. This guy's a racist.' But that couldn't be further from the truth. If I was a racist, and I was bullying Jonathan Martin, when the press went in there, my teammates would have said, 'We saw this, and we saw that.'
"I'm proud of my guys for having my back and telling the truth. But the fact of the matter is, when John left the team on Monday, we played a game on Thursday, and I spoke to John on Friday. I spoke with him through text messaging. He texted me and said, 'I don't blame you guys -- I blame some stuff in the locker room, and I blame the culture.' When all this stuff got going, and bullying got attached to it, and my name got attached to it, I texted him as a friend and said, 'What's up with this, man?' He said, 'It's not coming from me -- I haven't said anything to anybody.'"
Incognito told Glazer that he would show him all the texts after the interview, and "I'll show you the framework of a friendship." Were he to see Martin again right now, Incognito told Glazer that "I'd just give him a big hug right now, because we've been through so much. I'd be like, 'Dude -- what's going on? Why didn't you come to me?' If he told me that I took it too far, I would just apologize and explain to him exactly what I explained to you, and I'd apologize to his family that they took it as malicious. But I never meant it that way."
Incognito made good on his promise to show Glazer his phone, and Glazer printed out 1,142 texts over the last year between Incognito and Martin.
Martin's last two texts to Incognito, per Glazer, were these:
"Wassup man? The world's gone crazy LOL I'm good congrats on the win"
"Yeah I'm good man. It's insane bro but just know I don't blame you guys at all it's just the culture around football and the locker room got to me a little."
The only question Incognito sidestepped from Glazer, who Incognito has been friendly with for five years, was whether Dolphins coaches told Incognito to toughen Martin up, as has been reported. Incognito said that he could not comment because of possible legal issues.
Comments from the Dolphins locker room did indeed back up Incognito's claim that he had Martin's back, and that the two players were friends. Receiver Brian Hartline claimed that Martin was seen laughing at the voicemail, and quarterback Ryan Tannehill said that the pair were close.
"I think if you would ask John Martin a week before who his best friend on the team was, he would say, Richie Incognito. 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.”
Tannehill also said that he had not heard the voicemail.
Martin is currently in California. He has retained attorney David Cornwell, who released a statement on Nov. 7. In that statement, Cornwell alleged multiple examples of Martin's teammates mistreating him, and quoted a message from a teammate in which Martin's sister was threatened in a sexual manner. Cornwell asserted that Martin was at one point physically attacked by multiple teammates, and a source has told CBS Sports' Jason La Canfora that this incident occurred away from the team facility, but that it was witnessed by other Dolphins players.
Incognito is also in California, receiving advice from his agent, David Dunn. The NFL has started what it claims will be a comprehensive investigation. On Sunday morning, Mike Silver of the NFL Network reported
that neither general manager Jeff Ireland nor head coach Joe Philbin will survive this mess beyond the end of the 2013 season.