Dolphins guard Richie Incognito, now suspended by the club for tormenting teammate Jonathan Martin, had been told by at least one coach to help “toughen him up,” a source close to the organization told The Palm Beach Post this morning.
The source said there was a general understanding among coaches, including head coach Joe Philbin, that Martin, a second-year player from Stanford, was “too soft.”
A Dolphins spokesman was not immediately available for comment.
Some Dolphins officials, the source said, believe that Incognito is being blamed unfairly but that the team was forced to suspend him once they knew that voice mails were being leaked to the public in which Incognito threatened Martin in profane and racist language. Martin is bi-racial; Incognito is white.
The source said that coaches did not specifically tell Incognito to leave Martin harassing voice mails. But, the source said, “as weird as that sounds, I think that was Incognito trying to be a team leader.”
Incognito has been supported publicly by many of his teammates, black and white. Center Mike Pouncey, who is black, lines up next to Incognito on the field and is a friend off the field.
“Pouncey and Incognito, they talk to each other that way — redneck, (n-word), it doesn’t bother the two of them. It’s how they communicate,” the source said. “They bond with one another and they were trying to bring Jonathan in the circle.”
Martin was said to have been feeling tremendous pressure to succeed. He left the team Oct. 28, the day after he didn’t play well in a loss at New England. In that game, Martin was shifted from left tackle back to right tackle to make room for veteran left tackle Bryant McKinnie, who had been acquired from Baltimore. Martin has played both positions for Miami since being drafted in 2012.
He walked off the team after a prank in the cafeteria. As soon as he sat down at the lunch table, teammates already seated got up and left. Other Dolphins said this was a routine joke.
The NFL now is investigating Martin’s complaint that he has been harassed by the team. Adolpho Birch, the NFL’s senior vice president of law and labor policy, is leading the investigation.
Hall of Fame receiver Cris Carter, who briefly played for the Dolphins, said on ESPN’s Sportscenter this morning that coaches should not have tried to toughen up Martin.
“This was not a guy to try to make tougher,” Carter said. “A guy either has it from a physical-toughness standpoint or he doesn’t.”
Carter said he spoke with Pouncey, who told Carter that Martin considered quitting football his rookie season and that Pouncey tried to help him.
Pouncey, Carter said, “wishes the words (in Incognito’s voice mails) had been different.”