Dolphins teammates defend Incognito in alleged bullying incident
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On the same day NFL commissioner Roger Goodell appointed a prominent New York-based attorney to direct an independent investigation into workplace conduct among the Dolphins, some teammates of embattled guard Richie Incognito strongly defended the player who allegedly bullied tackle Jonathan Martin.
Goodell named Ted Wells, a senior partner in the firm of Paul, Weiss, Rifkind, Wharton & Garrison, to direct the investigation. The results will be made public once the case is completed, according to the league.
The Dolphins suspended Incognito indefinitely Sunday night, six days after Martin left the team following an incident in the team's cafeteria.
Martin is with his family in California. ESPN reported yesterday that he was hospitalized briefly for emotional distress at a South Florida facility shortly before he left the team.
In Miami, Dolphins quarterback Ryan Tannehill and wide receiver Brian Hartline expressed public support for Incognito Wednesday when asked by reporters about the situation.
"If you asked Jonathan Martin who was his best friend on this team two weeks ago, he'd say Richie Incognito,'' Tannehill said.
"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. I'm not in those guys' shoes. I can't explain what's going on.''
Tannehill added, "All I know about Richie is that he's a great teammate to me. I saw him be a great teammate all the time. Does he like to give guys a hard time? Yes. Does he like to pester guys and have fun? Yes. He brought a lot of laughter to this locker room. He brought a lot of cohesiveness to this locker room. He was the best teammate I could ask for.''
Said Hartline: "The truth is going to come out.''
The South Florida Sun-Sentinel reported Tuesday night that sources indicated Dolphins coaches urged Incognito to "toughen up'' Martin when the tackle missed two days of voluntary offseason practices in April.
Incognito reportedly left a racially charged, obscenity-laced voice mail for Martin around that time. Hartline also said Martin was passing around the voice mail, which is at the center of the investigation.
"This is the same guy that was laughing about this voice mail at one point in time, first of all,'' Hartline said of Martin.
Hartline said the Dolphins ordered the players Monday not to comment about the situation, but that some of them decided to "defend ourselves'' yesterday.
Offensive lineman Tyson Clabo said Martin should have defended himself if he had a problem with Incognito.
"I've been here long enough to know that if Martin had a problem, he didn't show it,'' said Clabo, who joined the Dolphins this season. "I think that if you have a problem with somebody . . . stand up and be a man.''
Joe Philbin, in his second season as the Dolphins' coach, would not speak directly to the alleged bullying, but acknowledged the news of Goodell's appointing a special counsel and any changes that might follow.
"If the review reveals anything that needs to be corrected,'' Philbin said, "we will take all necessary measures to fix it and make sure this doesn't happen again.''
Philbin also defended his coaching philosophy.
"The type of culture that I've championed since the day that I walked through these doors has been one of honesty, respect and accountability to one another.
"I've considered those to be hallmarks of this program, and I believe our locker room reflects those beliefs. I believe in our coaching staff. And that's exactly what I communicated to them today. I have full faith and confidence that we will stick together as a team, that we will focus at the task at hand, which is preparing for a Monday night game against Tampa Bay.''
On Monday, Philbin said he was unaware of hazing incidents that involved Incognito -- such as hacking into a teammate's Facebook page -- on the HBO series "Hard Knocks," which chronicled the Dolphins' training camp in 2012.
Philbin said he never watched the show.
Incognito has said very little since being suspended. "You know what, I'm just trying to weather the storm right now,'' he told WSVN-TV on Tuesday. "This will pass.''