Miami Dolphins offensive guard Richie Incognito has been suspended indefinitely while the NFL began looking into his alleged bullying of teammate Jonathan Martin on Monday.
Martin left the Dolphins last week to seek treatment for an emotional issue after being the victim of a prank in the team lunchroom.
He met with Dolphins coach Joe Philbin after Miami’s game on Thursday last week and Philbin issued the ban on Incognito on Sunday night for conduct detrimental to the team.
“I decided to suspend Richie Incognito based on the information I had at that time,” Philbin said on Monday. “I had enough information, I felt, to make a good decision and that’s what I did.”
ESPN reported that Incognito sent Martin, an offensive tackle, a voice message in April with a racist slur, as well as threats to kill him, slap his mother and defecate in his mouth. The report said such statements were made multiple times and not isolated incidents.
“He’s done,” an unidentified team source told the Miami Herald on Monday. “There are procedures in place and everyone wants to be fair. The NFL is involved, but from a club perspective, he will never play another game here.”
Incognito, who had been on the team’s player-elected leadership council of six, is set to become a free agent after this season.
“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,” the Dolphins said in a statement.
Philbin said Martin did not identify Incognito or mention any bad behavior in their talks, but that representatives for Martin did so when contacting the team on Sunday.
“He never mentioned any inappropriate behavior,” Philbin said of Martin. “At no time were there any accusations or allegations of misconduct by any member of this team or organization.”
However, Philbin said once he and the team learned of the issues, “we immediately took those concerns very seriously” and “we have addressed it in a team meeting.”
The Dolphins contacted NFL commissioner Roger Goodell on Sunday and asked for the league to conduct a workplace review.
“It will be objective. It will be comprehensive,” Philbin said. “If the review shows this is not a safe atmosphere, I will take whatever measures are necessary to make sure that it is. As the head coach, I’m in charge of the workplace atmosphere. Any conduct that detracts from [winning a championship] is not acceptable.”
Philbin would not deal with specifics of the incident that pushed Martin to leave the team, but said: “Laughter in the work environment can be a good thing, but not at the expense of an individual.”
Philbin promised full cooperation with the NFL probe by everyone in the organization, but said there would be no more comments on the matter during the investigation.
Asked about the racist undertones in the message and the Dolphins’ locker room atmosphere, Philbein said: “That’s going to fall under the review of the NFL.”
Martin had played Miami’s first six games at left tackle, protecting the quarterback’s blind side, before being shifted to right tackle after the Dolphins obtained Bryant McKinnie earlier this month.
Incognito has a history of getting into trouble, being suspended at the University of Nebraska for violating team rules, dismissed by the University of Oregon team after switching schools, being voted the NFL’s Dirtiest Player in a 2009 player poll by the Sporting News and being cut by the St Louis Rams after two personal fouls in a 2009 game led to arguments with coach Steve Spagnuolo.
In 2011, Oakland defensive lineman Richard Seymour was fined US$30,000 for punching Incognito during a game and in August this year Houston defensive lineman Antonio Smith incurred a one-game suspension for swinging his helmet at Incognito during a pre-season matchup.