Report: Incognito, two teammates had pattern of harassment

Report: Incognito, two teammates had pattern of harassment

Credit: Getty Images

Richie Incognito #68 of the Miami Dolphins defends against the Buffalo Bills on December 23, 2012 at Sun Life Stadium in Miami Gardens, Florida. The Dolphins defeated the Bills 24-10. (Photo by Joel Auerbach/Getty Images)

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by TOM PELISSERO

USA Today

Posted on February 14, 2014 at 11:47 AM

Miami Dolphins offensive linemen Richie Incognito, John Jerry and Mike Pouncey "engaged in a pattern of harassment" of teammate Jonathan Martin, another unidentified young offensive lineman and a member of the team's athletic training staff, according to the long-awaited, 144-page report released by attorney Ted Wells' office Friday morning.

That harassment contributed to Martin's departure from the team in October, but those teammates "did not intend to drive Martin from the team or cause him lasting emotional injury," the report said.

"Moreover, however offensive much of the conduct discussed in this Report may have been," the report read, "it appears that the Dolphins' rules of workplace behavior were not fully appreciated and, with respect to at least some of their actions, Incognito and his teammates may not have been clearly notified that they were crossing lines that would be enforced by the team with serious sanctions.

FULL REPORT: Check out full document

"In fact, many of the issues raised by this investigation appear to be unprecedented. We are unaware of any analogous situation in which anti-harassment policies have been applied to police how NFL teammates communicate and interact with each other."

The conclusion of the report reads: "As all must surely recognize, the NFL is not an ordinary workplace. Professional football is a rough, contact sport played by men of exceptional size, speed, strength and athleticism. But even the largest, strongest and fleetest person may be driven to despair by bullying, taunting and constant insults.

"We encourage the creation of new workplace conduct rules and guidelines that will help ensure that players respect each other as professionals and people."

Martin, 24, left the team Oct. 28 after a cafeteria prank and sought treatment for undisclosed mental health issues. Six days later, his representatives turned over evidence of alleged abuse to the Dolphins, who suspended Incognito, 30, for conduct detrimental to the team that night and asked Commissioner Roger Goodell for help with the issue.

On Nov. 6, the league hired Wells, a prominent criminal attorney, to lead an "independent" investigation of issues of workplace conduct with the Dolphins. He interviewed more than 100 people, including every Dolphins player, the entire coaching staff, key front office personnel, former Dolphins, some of Martin's teammates and coaches at Stanford, Martin's parents and Martin's agent. He also collected text messages, emails and scouting, medical and security files.

More than three months later, the result was a report that said Dolphins coach Joe Philbin and the front office "did not know about the harassment" of Martin, so-called "Player A" or the "Assistant Trainer" despite its apparently pervasive nature.

"We have just received the report from Ted Wells and will review it in detail before responding relative to the findings," the Dolphins said in a statement. "When we asked the NFL to conduct this independent review, we felt it was important to take a step back and thoroughly research these serious allegations. As an organization, we are committed to a culture of team-first accountability and respect for one another."

Among other things, the report chronicles Martin's descent into depression in the face of the harassment:

- After returning to California following rookie year, Martin experienced "depression that had been caused by the way his teammates had treated him on a daily basis throughout the season. He related that he felt miserable and worthless as he ruminated on his inability to defend himself or his family."

- When Martin backed out of a trip to Las Vegas with Incognito and other Dolphins, he received a series of texts from Incognito that directed crude language at Martin's sister, questioned Martin's own sexuality and also demeaned his bi-racial background. "Martin was extremely upset" by Incognito's messages and, "Martin said that in his mind, Incognito's text messages meant that he faced an impossible dilemma: return to an environment where there would be relentless harassment, or give up his dream job as a starter for the Dolphins, which would be humiliating and impossible to explain to anyone. Martin asserted that his depression reached a particularly low point on January 6 as a result of these messages, and that he contemplated suicide at this time."

- Martin texted his mother in January 2013: "I have really severe depression. There are many instances where I can't get out of bed. . . . I'm really embarrassed to talk about it with anyone in person, I tried to with you when I was home but I couldn't do it. I've managed to keep it under control for the most part on my own. Anyways, I really do wanna take care of it, because it is debilitating & keeps me from reaching my potential in all facets of life."

- After Martin tweeted he was "Excited to get back to football" following offseason training at Stanford in April, 2013, Incognito left a voicemail calling Martin a "half-(racial epithet)." Martin was extremely upset by the slur, which he said Incognito had never directed at him to that point. Martin did not want to divulge details of teammates' behavior to his mother. She subsequently encouraged him to see a mental health counselor.

Incognito cut a deal Nov. 21 to delay an expedited hearing for his grievance against the team and extend his suspension two weeks beyond the maximum allowed by the collective-bargaining agreement in exchange for reducing his financial loss to two game checks worth $470,588. A subsequent deal extended Incognito's suspension for the rest of the season.

The Dolphins officially ended Martin's season Nov. 30 by placing him on the non-football injury illness list but continued paying his weekly salary of $35,733. He is under contract two more years, with non-guaranteed base salaries of $824,933 in 2014 and $1,042,400 in 2015.

Incognito, who was backed by quarterback Ryan Tannehill and numerous other teammates in the aftermath of his ban, can become a free agent next month. He went on a Twitter barrage Wednesday, saying the truth would "bury" Martin and his camp.

TWITTER RANT:: Incognito goes off on social media

COLUMN: Incognito's rant revealing

DeMaurice Smith, executive director of the NFL Players Association, told USA TODAY Sports last month the union's own investigation into the matter – led by attorney Richard Smith – was nearing completion as well but Martin refused to cooperate.

At a pre-Super Bowl media conference, DeMaurice Smith criticized the leaks in the case that continued Monday, when TheBigLead.com published more than 1,000 text messages it obtained between Incognito and Martin.

The Dolphins won five of their next seven games after Martin left the team, only to drop their last two to AFC East rivals Buffalo and the New York Jets and miss the playoffs for a fifth straight year. The team fired offensive coordinator Mike Sherman on Jan. 6 and general manager Jeff Ireland the next day, but head coach Joe Philbin remains employed.

Even before the Martin/Incognito saga began, the Dolphins needed offensive line help. In addition to Incognito, their starting tackles at the end of the season, Tyson Clabo and Bryant McKinnie, and Jerry can become unrestricted free agents next month.

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Follow Tom Pelissero on Twitter @TomPelissero

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