Miami Dolphins coaches asked guard Richie Incognito to “toughen up” Jonathan Martin after the second-year tackle missed a voluntary workout last spring, according to a South Florida Sun Sentinel report.
The report, which cites unnamed sources, could be explosive if the NFL were to determine that coaches were behind the alleged bullying of Martin, who walked away from the team last week.
Incognito was suspended indefinitely for conduct detrimental to the team. The Dolphins have put Martin on the non-football injury list.
Dolphins owner Stephen Ross contacted the NFL over the weekend and asked that the league conduct an investigation of the team’s workplace conditions. Ross spoke directly with NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell.
The Sun Sentinel report indicates Incognito, who is accused of using racial epithets and physical threats in voice and text messages to Martin, did not decide on his own to allegedly harrass his teammate.
If Dolphins coaches were involved, and Incognito was simply the tip of the sword, the situation potentially could have the same effect on the Dolphins that the Bountygate scandal had on the New Orleans Saints.
Neither Dolphins Coach Joe Philbin nor his assistant coaches have shed much light on what they knew about the conflict between the players or when. All have declined to elaborate, pointing to the NFL and its pending investigation.
On Monday, Dolphins offensive coordinator Mike Sherman praised Incognito, saying: "He was a hard worker. He came out here every day and worked hard. He worked extremely, extremely hard and did what I asked him to do."
Asked if Martin ever came to him with concerns about Incognito, Sherman declined to say.
"All that stuff in relationship to that, I'm going to leave to Coach Philbin to answer those questions," Sherman said. "It is under review by the National Football League and I'll just leave it at that."