As investigation concludes, what should Dolphins do now?
The early days of the Jonathan Martin-Richie Incognito harassment scandal brought many comments sympathetic toward the alleged bully.
Miami Dolphins players insisted Incognito and Martin were friends and that Richie was a good guy.
People in and out of the game accused Martin of breaking the code that things in the locker room, should stay in the locker room.
At worst, some people said, an overly sensitive Martin ether had issues or just couldn’t handle Incognito’s words and actions.
More than a few wondered why Martin didn’t confront Incognito if offended or bothered by his teammate’s abuse. Was the tackle just ”soft?”
Nearly four months after Martin left the Dolphins facility, independent investigator Ted Wells has released his report on the controversy.
The report’s high-level takeaway was that Incognito, John Jerry and Mike Pouncey engaged in a pattern of harassment directed at not only Martin, but other Dolphins offensive lineman as well as an assistant trainer.
This followed weeks of speculation as each side released texts and other assorted details in effort to sway public opinion and create a rush to judgment.
In the report, Martin comes across as a victim who at times played along with abuse in attempts to fit in with his teammates. The report explained a ”complicating factor is that Martin may have been particularly sensitive to insults from his teammates.”
That was because the former Stanford standout said he had been bullied in high school, and that ”diminished his self-confidence and self-esteem and contributed to what he self-diagnosed as periodic bouts of depression during his teenage years.” That depression, Martin told the investigator, ”recurred as a result of mistreatment by his teammates on the Dolphins and that on two occasions in 2013 he even contemplated suicide.”
The investigator rejected Incognito’s claim that Martin fabricated things after the fact, saying never-before-released texts to the player’s parents and others ”corroborate Martin’s account that he was distressed by insults from his teammates and experiencing emotional turmoil because he believed he was ‘a push over’ who was unable to stop the verbal assaults.
The harassment by Incognito, Pouncey and Jerry included extremely graphic comments about Martin’s mother and sister. One can’t truly appreciate the level of vulgarity until reading the report.
Other people might have laughed off some comments or initiated a confrontation. Not Martin.
We will never know whether a stronger reaction by Martin would have stopped his teammates’ behavior or exacerbated it,” the report said. ”But Martin told us that he did not view a physical response as a viable option.”
With the extent of the harassment documented, the remaining question is: What happens now?
Martin’s agent said his client intends to resume his football career next season. While some players around the league might be inclined to display understanding toward Incognito and the others, that won’t fly going forward. If anything, future teammates might avoid getting close to Martin to make sure nothing they say or do gets misunderstood.
Incognito, never a choir boy on or off the field, might not be so lucky. At the very least, he’d probably have to prove a severe change in personality over a prolonged period of time to play again. After all, he was summoned to discuss his pattern of behavior with NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell in July 2012 after reported involvement in three negative incidents within a few months.
Offensive line coach Jim Turner’s job could be in jeopardy. The report implicates him as having knowledge of some of the abuse and even participating in a prank.
Turner claimed not to recall giving an offensive lineman (not Martin) a male ”blow-up” doll as an alleged gag Christmas gift. He also denied knowing the term ”Judas,” which was applied to a player who snitched on another, even though Dolphins former assistant offensive line coach Chris Mosley said Turner introduced the Judas concept to the offensive linemen.
The investigator’s team ”do not credit Turner’s denials.”
The involvement of Pouncey and Jerry in the harassment could be problematic for Miami. Jerry ”downplayed his role” and Pouncey ”denied” making vulgar comments about Martin’s family. The investigator believed others, who contradicted the players’ assertions.
Jerry will be a free agent, but with the Dolphins in need of rebuilding their offensive line, his return was possible. Now, it’s unlikely.
Pouncey, meanwhile, is the lone returning starter to the line. The All-Pro center previously was subpoenaed to appear before a grand jury investigating former New England Patriots tight end Aaron Hernandez, a Pouncey college teammate at Florida.
It’s unclear if Jerry or Pouncey would be subject to disciplinary action by the league or team. Both players (and Incognito) signed a form acknowledging a 2013 Dolphins’ workplace conduct policy that they understood and agreed to follow.
The investigator’s report not only supported Martin’s statement that he did not inform Joe Philbin of the harassment, it said the head coach was committed to promoting integrity and accountability throughout the organization.
”We are convinced that had Coach Philbin learned of the underlying misconduct,” the report read, ”he would have intervened promptly to ensure that Martin and others were treated with dignity.”
The Dolphins are not the only team to be affected by this report. The NFL likely will use it to implement league-wide standards for locker room behavior and player interaction.
And for the gridiron dinosaurs claiming too much was made of this situation, know this: It’s not about injecting corporate America guidelines into a clandestine sacred environment. It’s about expecting adults to treat one another as human beings who are deserving of respect.