In the wake of a locker-room rift that became public when an offensive lineman left the team last week, the Miami Dolphins suspended another offensive lineman, Richie Incognito, on Sunday night for conduct detrimental to the team.
Jonathan Martin, a second-year player out of Stanford, left the team last week amid reports that he’d been harassed in the team’s lunch room. That led to a report by the Miami Herald that Dolphins veterans had used “younger players as ATMs to finance their nightlife whims. These older players have been caught up in the fast-paced Miami lifestyle without the burden of having to pay for it, the source continued” to the Herald.
“The Miami Dolphins have suspended Richie Incognito for conduct detrimental to the team,” the team said in a statement released late Sunday night. “We believe in maintaining a culture of respect for one another and as a result we believe this decision is in the best interest of the organization at this time. As we noted earlier, we reached out to the NFL to conduct an objective and thorough review. We will continue to work with the league on this matter.”
Martin’s representatives had contacted the Dolphins earlier in the day about what the team described as “player misconduct.” ESPN reported that one allegation under review is that Incognito obtained $15,000 from Martin to help pay for a group trip to Las Vegas last summer. Martin was not in the group, but allegedly feared that there would be consequences if he did not pay.
In addition, there’s the tradition of forcing rookies to pay for elaborate and outrageous dinners — a common practice across pro sports. For players on a rookie’s $400,000 minimum salary, money evaporates quickly, as the Herald’s Adam Beasley reports.
Rookie cornerback Will Davis tweeted Saturday about an enormous bill, but added that it was “definitely split. … They would never put that on one may to pay for it all. Haha now that would be crazy…”:
Incognito, part of the team’s six-player leadership council, vigorously defended himself on Twitter on Sunday, then later deleted the tweets. This being the Internet, those don’t really disappear. He called reports that he was involved “false speculation” and “slander.” He tweeted to ESPN’s Adam Schefter, who reported that Incognito left threatening voice mails and text messages for Martin and used a racially insensitive term: “Stop slandering my name. You hide behind ‘sources’ who are not man enough to put their name behind the BS you report.”
Scott Pioli, a former executive with the Patriots and Chiefs, is now a “Sunday Night Football” commentator and he wasn’t raving about either Martin or Incognito.
“We saw a guy who was a great athlete,” Pioli said of Martin on the “SNF” pregame show. “A really smart football player, but he wasn’t our type of player, offensive lineman. We generally liked guys who were a little bit tougher, a little bit more physical. He just wasn’t our type of guy.”
He was more plain-spoken about Incognito. “If he is a leader in your locker room, that is a problem,” Pioli said. “What this shows me is that there is some void of leadership somewhere within the Miami Dolphins locker room, because if there are issues like this, generally the head coach or the general manager is going to know something about this. They’re going to be able to fix the problem before it manifests itself into this disaster they have right now.”
Pioli went on to say that he wasn’t interested in Incognito in 2005, when he was a third-round draft pick. “I didn’t want him coming out, and I don’t want him now.”
H/T For the Win for the video