Suspended NFL player Richie Incognito says he’s ‘weathering the storm’
It should have been a great morning for Richie Incognito. A brand new black Ferrari was delivered to his Florida house on Tuesday.
Instead he is at the center of national media attention and exiled from his NFL team after a Miami Dolphins teammate made allegations of misconduct against him.
Dolphins coach Joe Philbin suspended Incognito on Sunday night.
“You know, I’m just trying to weather the storm right now. And this will pass,” he told CNN affiliate WSVN outside a doctor’s office in Weston, Florida, on Tuesday.
Incognito said he didn’t want to comment on media reports that he sent line-mate Jonathan Martin voice mails containing racial slurs and threats of physical violence. When asked about his status with the team, Incognito closed the door to his car without answering and drove away.
ESPN, NFL.com and other media outlets reported that representatives for Martin on Sunday submitted the voice mails and texts to the league and the Dolphins. One of the messages, from April, contained a reference to Martin’s biracial background, according to ESPN’s sources.
“Hey, wassup, you half (expletive) piece of (expletive). I saw you on Twitter, you been training 10 weeks. I’ll (expletive) in your (expletive) mouth. I’m gonna slap your (expletive) mouth, I’m gonna slap your real mother across the face (laughter). (Expletive) you, you’re still a rookie. I’ll kill you.”
Philbin told reporters on Monday he made the decision to suspend Incognito “based on the information that I had at that time.” He didn’t give a reason for the move.
Martin left the team suddenly last week and has not commented publicly on why he walked away in the middle of the season. He remains on the team’s roster (meaning he will be paid for this week), though last week he was listed as inactive with an “illness.”
Also Tuesday, celebrity gossip website TMZ posted a video of Incognito at a bar, shouting at the top of his lungs while pacing wildly around a pool table topless. He uses profanity and the N-word in referring to one of his teammates who is also there. Martin doesn’t appear in the video and TMZ only said the video was recorded earlier this year.
CNN reached out multiple times to representatives for each player but hasn’t received comment.
Cafeteria incident sparked departure
Last week, the Dolphins announced Martin had taken “a leave of absence.”
Philbin said Martin left the team after an incident at the team’s cafeteria. Jay Glazer, an NFL analyst for FoxSports.com, reported that some of his teammates got up from a lunch table as a joke when Martin sat down. The lineman threw his food tray hard to the ground, he reported. Glazer later tweeted the incident was a final straw for Martin.
The coach said representatives for Martin contacted the team on Sunday with their concerns. The Dolphins spent Sunday gathering information, after which he suspended Incognito, Philbin said.
Several media outlets said Martin had left the Dolphins because of bullying, something Incognito denied on Twitter.
“Shame on you for attaching my name to false speculation,” one of the tweets said, according to Bleacher Report. That tweet and others addressed to various media outlets were later deleted.
A post from Sunday remained a day later: “Three things cannot be long hidden: the sun, the moon, and the truth — Buddha.”
Philbin said he met with Martin and also talked with members of his family before Sunday, and the second-year player didn’t say anything about player misconduct.
The team said Sunday in a statement that Incognito, a nine-year veteran at offensive guard, was suspended for detrimental conduct.
“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 team said in a statement on its website.
The Miami Herald reported that a Dolphins source said Incognito is “done” with the team. A Dolphins spokesman had no comment.
‘Teddy bear off the field’
Chris Draft played with Incognito when both were with the St. Louis Rams in 2007 and 2008. Incognito’s on-field aggressive persona was nothing like his personality away from the playing field, Draft said.
“He was really kind of a big teddy bear off the field. My wife actually loved him,” he said.
The Sporting News takes a yearly poll of NFL players, and in 2009 they dubbed Incognito the dirtiest player in the league.
The Rams released Incognito in December 2009 after an argument during a game with then-head coach Steve Spagnuolo. He played with the Buffalo Bills for three games before joining the Dolphins.
Incognito, who played in the Pro Bowl all-star game in January, appeared to have calmed down on the field, according to a profile on NFL.com. Incognito pointed to meditation as a positive tool he used.
The NFL will review the case, league spokesman Greg Aiello said Monday.
“I will tell you that if the review shows that this is not a safe atmosphere I will take whatever measures are necessary to assure that it is,” Philbin said. “I have that obligation to the players that I coach on a daily basis.”
The NFL Players Association has said the union has not started an investigation.
NFL’s pecking order
Dolphins rookie Will Davis said he hasn’t experienced any acts of bullying or hazing.
“I think a lot of people think of hazing as being cruel, but I don’t see anything like that in this locker room,” he said. “But it depends on how you take hazing. I’ve always thought the guys in here were great.”
He said everyone on the team loves Incognito.
“I was shocked,” he said.
Wide receiver Mike Wallace said there was a lot of respect for both players.
“I know both of those guys personally,” he said. “I feel like they are both good guys.”
Former Dolphins linebacker Channing Crowder told “Piers Morgan Live” that a locker room is often a place where players are trying to establish a pecking order.
People cannot compare it to working at a regular job, he said, because it involves physically aggressive men with big egos competing and trying to prove their manhood.
NFL players are “a bunch of testosterone-filled alpha males who are trying to find their place on the totem pole,” he told Morgan.
He said when Incognito joined the team, he would test people to see where he stood with them.
“He is a guy that needs to know his place with you,” Crowder said.
Incognito also apparently liked to play pranks. In a segment shown on an HBO series that follows one NFL team during each preseason, Incognito figured out a teammate’s iPad password. He then teased the player about a status update he made for the player and joked about the player’s fiancee.
“Hard Knocks” has given audiences a look inside team dynamics, sometimes giving viewers a glimpse at life for rookies. And inevitably some of the younger players get hazed.
Hazing on the decline?
Still, former Dolphins running back Ricky Williams said it occurs less frequently in the NFL than most people think.
“Really I haven’t seen much hazing,” he said in an interview on “The Lead with Jake Tapper.”
He said it’s a well-known “rite of passage” for a high draft pick to pick up a big dinner bill for some other players on the team.
“Once you sign that contract there’s a lot of rules, written and unwritten, that you are expected to follow,” he said. “For me, this is something that should be handled internally. I don’t think the media, I don’t think fans, I don’t think anyone outside is really in a position to really fully understand what occurs inside of a locker room and inside of a football team.”