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'Appalled' Dolphins Owner Ross Announces 'Code of Conduct' Committee

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Copyright 2013 The Palm Beach Newspapers, Inc.
All Rights Reserved

Palm Beach Post (Florida)
November 12, 2013 Tuesday
FINAL EDITION
SPORTS; Pg. 1C
707 words
Owner: Changes will be made;
In first public comments on Dolphins scandal, Ross says he's 'appalled' by locker-room behavior.
By Hal Habib Palm Beach Post Staff Writer
TAMPA

Dolphins owner Stephen Ross used hushed tones but spoke volumes Monday night, saying he would meet with tackle Jonathan Martin this week, announcing he's seeking counsel from Don Shula, Dan Marino and Tony Dungy, offering support for coach Joe Philbin and apologizing to fans for the controversy engulfing the organization.

"I was appalled," Ross said of when he learned of the dispute between Martin and suspended guard Richie Incognito. "Anybody would be appalled."

Ross' first public comments came before Monday night's Dolphins-Tampa Bay Bucs game at Raymond James Stadium.

He announced a "Code of Conduct" committee that will be formed to suggest changes for the organization, a group composed of Shula, Marino and Jason Taylor and two other respected NFL figures with no ties to the organization: former Indianapolis and Tampa Bay coach Dungy, now an NBC analyst, and former New York Jets running back Curtis Martin, a Hall of Famer. The group will begin work after the season.

Several times, Ross referred to his desire to meet with Jonathan Martin, whom he'll see Wednesday, for a first-hand account of the issues Martin believes forced him to walk out on the team Oct. 28. ESPN reported that Martin wants to continue his NFL career, but not in Miami.

Martin's issues reportedly include bullying and/or harassment by Incognito, who has denied those accusations while on indefinite suspension. Ross would say only that he "probably" will meet with Incognito at some point.

"We care about Jonathan Martin, No. 1," Ross said.

Martin's lawyer said the player also has been subjected to racial slurs and was physically attacked by players.

NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell has hired lawyer Ted Wells to investigate the issue, which has become national news and made the Dolphins the butt of late-night comedians' jokes.

"When you can't pick up a newspaper in any city without hearing about this, when things like that happen, you know change is needed," Ross said.

Wells' report will be made public by the NFL. Ross said once the facts are known, "changes will be made," but in the meantime, he's trying to show restraint since probably no one knows what actually happened, he said.

"I know I'm capable of overreacting," Ross said.

At least for the time being, Ross seems comfortable with the way Philbin has addressed the matter.

"Joe Philbin is one of the most organized people I've ever met," Ross said. "When I interviewed him, that stood out. What also stood out was his character. I don't think there's a better person, a more caring person, a more respected person in the National Football League than Joe Philbin."

Ross added, "I have total, utmost confidence in Joe Philbin."

Whether intentional or not, Ross did not mention general manager Jeff Ireland, who has come under scrutiny for reportedly telling Martin to try to settle his differences with Incognito by punching him. Late Monday, players' union head DeMaurice Smith told ESPN, "We know the history of this GM with other issues."

Incognito and many Dolphins players insisted nothing more than routine hazing occurred at training camp, but Ross said the definition of acceptable hazing is about to change.

"People will sing their fight song, but it's where you draw the line," Ross said. "One thing that will change is there will be no interracial slurs or harassing or bullying in my locker room."

Ross said it wasn't until the controversy bubbled over that he was aware there was even a hint of an issue.

"In any locker room, every voice needs to be heard," Ross said. "Obviously there was a voice we weren't hearing."

Which is why he plans to see Martin, at an undisclosed location.

"I'd like to hear from him what happened, why he felt that way, and what we did and what we could have done," Ross said.

New Dolphins CEO Tom Garfinkel, who appeared at the news conference with Ross, said he, Ireland, Philbin and vice president Dawn Aponte have formed a committee to ensure "standards are being enforced" in the organization.

"I apologize to fans for being in this position," Ross said. "I know we will come out of this as a better organization."

hhabib@pbpost.com Twitter: @gunnerhal

PRESTIGIOUS PANEL

Dolphins owner Stephen Ross appointed a five-person committee to review the Dolphins' practices:

November 12, 2013

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