When suspended Dolphins offensive lineman Richie Incognito told Fox Sports' Jay Glazer in an exclusive interview aired Sunday morning that his behavior was reflective of NFL locker-room culture, the league's latest nightmare worsened.
Incognito, a nine-year NFL veteran and the leader of the Miami offensive line, says he knows language he used in texts and voice mails to teammate Jonathan Martin "are not right." Incognito said that "what I want people to know is, the way Jonathan and the rest of the offensive line and how our teammates, how we communicate, it’s vulgar.”
The Dolphins are the focus of an NFL investigation into bullying and harassment charges stemming from Martin, a second-year tackle, leaving the club Oct. 28, reportedly to seek treatment for emotional distress. Widely circulated was a voice mail from Incognito to Martin laced with the profanity, including use of the N-word, and a threat of murder.
Incognito continued to deflect the blame for his actions throughout the interview by saying that what went on in the locker room and his personal relationship with Martin were private matters taken out of context, while also admitting his use of language was inappropriate, particularly outside of football.
“It’s thrown around a lot," Incognito said of the derogatory word for a black person. "It’s a word that I’ve heard Jon use a lot … and I’m not saying that it’s right for when I did it on a voice mail. There’s a lot of colorful words thrown around the locker room that we don’t use every day in life.
"The fact of the matter remains, though, that that voicemail was left on a private voicemail for my friend and it was a joke.”
Incognito said that he didn't realize that Martin was hurt by his actions.
"Jon never showed signs that football was getting to him, the locker room was getting him,” Incognito said.
The battle lines have been drawn and the controversy has fallen upon the NFL to sort out. Players around the league are split, with many backing Incognito while others have condemned his actions as too extreme. Most Dolphins have sided with Incognito or have been neutral at best in the matter.
Fox Sports mostly played it straight leading up to the exclusive interview, although analyst Jimmy Johnson was quite clear that Martin was likely the one with a problem.
“People have got to realize that the NFL locker room is full of joking and teasing and not in a malicious way, but at times tasteless and over the line," said Johnson, a former NFL and college coach who pointed out that Martin had pranked his teammates.
“You look at this, and the Dolphins used a high pick on Jonathan Martin and had high expectations. Well, other teams shied away from [drafting] Martin. Maybe the Dolphins should have investigated why they shied away.”