Miami Dolphins offensive lineman Richie Incognito, known around the NFL for dirty play, added to his already sullied reputation by being suspended indefinitely by the team for sending racist and threatening text messages to teammate Jonathan Martin.
Anonymous sources told The Associate Press that coach Joe Philbin suspended Incognito late Sunday night after becoming aware of the nature of the correspondence from the 319-pound Incognito, who is white, to the 312-pound Martin, a Black offensive lineman who played alongside Incognito.
The team and NFL continued their investigation into allegations by Martin’s representatives that he was bullied, and Philbin said Dolphins owner Stephen Ross asked Commissioner Roger Goodell for assistance. The NFL Players Association also planned to look into the matter.
”There’s certain people out there who are just punks, and he wants to be that kind of guy,” former Seahawks and Lions defensive end Lawrence Jackson said Monday. ”But because he’s a lineman, he gets away with a lot of stuff that people don’t see. . . Incognito is way worse than anybody I ever played against.”
Philbin said he was unaware of hazing incidents that involved Incognito – such as hacking into a teammate’s Facebook page – as shown on the HBO series ”Hard Knocks” that chronicled the Dolphins’ training camp in 2012. Philbin said he never watched the program.
”If the review shows that this is not a safe atmosphere, I will take whatever measures are necessary to ensure that it is,” Philbin said. ”I have that obligation to the players that I coach on a daily basis, and I will do that.”
In first four years with the St. Louis Rams, Incognito led the NFL in penalties for unnecessary roughness before the team tired of his antics and released him in 2009.
David Shaw, coach at Stanford, where Martin played in college, said Martin is doing well, but he was not sure when he would return to the Dolphins.”
The two behemoths strike dramatically different backgrounds: Martin is the son of Harvard graduates and grew up in California cultured on classical music and literature. Incognito is anything like his last name suggests. The New Jersey native has been at the heart of many run-ins, fights and controversies because of an overzealous nature. Some observers wonder if Incognito has eclipsed the boundaries of permissible locker room high jinks or hazing.
“A large part of this has been growing up, making a conscious effort on my end to change some ways in my life and change some of my ways on the football field,” Incognito told The Sun-Sentinel in August. He made the comment two months after receiving a trespassing warning after a suspected bar fight in Miami Beach, according to The Palm Beach Post.
Giants kicker Josh Brown played with Incognito at Nebraska and in St. Louis. His view of his former teammate, expressed in The New York Times, could be telling: “A person with a tortured soul.”
“He’s always been a fighter,” Brown said. “It’s just something he hadn’t been able to kick. It’s unfortunate and it’s sad, very sad.”