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

Palm Beach Post (Florida)
November 5, 2013 Tuesday
988 words
Dolphins back Incognito, team culture;
Racially charged messages cited in Richie Incognito's alleged harassment of teammate Jonathan Martin.
By Andrew Abramson Palm Beach Post Staff Writer

Racially charged messages allegedly sent to Dolphins offensive tackle Jonathan Martin shed new light Monday on the team's decision to suspend veteran guard Richie Incognito.

ESPN began releasing transcripts of text messages and voice mails allegedly sent from Incognito to Martin that included a racial slur and threats to harm Martin's family.

The Dolphins suspended Incognito late Sunday and said they would cooperate with an NFL investigation into whether he had systematically harassed Martin, who left the team in frustration last Monday.

Coach Joe Philbin, speaking for the first time since Incognito's suspension, said Monday afternoon that he had been in regular contact with Martin and his family since he left the club, but that no one had told Philbin of any issues between the players until Martin's representatives came forward Sunday.

"In all my discussions with Jonathan and members of his family, at no time were there any accusations or allegations of misconduct by any members of this team or this organization," Philbin said.

Players, who returned to practice after a weekend off, publicly backed Incognito. Defensive end Derrick Shelby said Incognito is not a racist.

"Richie's definitely not that type of guy," Shelby said. "If you had to pick a guy to get your back, I'd pick Richie. Richie would be first for a lot guys."

TMZ released a video Monday of a shirtless Incognito in a Fort Lauderdale bar shouting, "Mike Pouncey, N-word!" Pouncey, a Dolphins teammate who is black and as center lines up next to Incognito, was laughing.

"I love Richie," Dolphins receiver Mike Wallace said Monday.

"I personally think he's a great guy. He's an intense guy. Everybody knows that."

But former Kansas City Chiefs general manager Scott Pioli criticized Incognito on NBC's "Football Night in America" on Sunday, saying he didn't draft him in 2005 because of personality issues. "If he is a leader in your locker room, that is a problem," Pioli said.

While Dolphins players backed Incognito, who is in his fourth season with the team and ninth in the league, they were more lukewarm regarding Martin, whom the Dolphins drafted out of Stanford in 2012.

Linebacker Dannell Ellerbe said that if Martin had an issue with Incognito or any other teammate, he should have gone to Ellerbe or another member of the team's leadership council -- a group of six players that is used in place of team captains.

The leadership council acts as a liaison between players and coaches. Incognito was a member of the council.

"We would have tried to handle it the best way possible," Ellerbe said.

When asked if he would reach out to Martin, Ellerbe wasn't sure.

"If he needs anything I'm here for him," Ellerbe said. "But I can't sit here and say 'yeah or no.'"

If the Dolphins want to put Martin on the reserve/injured list -- which would let them fill his roster spot but likely end his season -- the deadline is this afternoon.

Defensive tackle Jared Odrick said he wished the best for Martin but didn't sound like he expects him to come back to the Dolphins.

"Anything that's going on with JMart right now, I hope he gets sorted out and I hope he's OK," Odrick said.

"I hope he continues his career and plays great and plays awesome. He's a great guy."

Players also were preparing to move forward without Incognito, who might not play another snap in a Dolphins uniform. He will be a free agent after this season. Martin has two years left on his contract.

Players denied that there was bullying or hazing in the locker room.

"Most people don't understand this culture," Shelby said. "Most people don't put themselves through pain like we do. So I don't think it's fair for an everyday person to judge what goes on in this atmosphere."

Defensive end Cam Wake said what some people view as hazing is a harmless "rite of passage."

In the NFL, that can mean making young players carry pads, giving them outrageous haircuts or having them pick up restaurant tabs. In return, the veterans mentor them on and off the field.

"This league is a group of elite men," Wake said. "It's a fraternity, it's a brotherhood, it's a lot of things. And there is a membership."

Martin reportedly was forced this summer by Incognito to pay $15,000 toward a Las Vegas trip for the offensive linemen. Martin chose not to attend the trip but still paid.

The veterans had a rookie dinner night last week, and the rookies had to pick up a $30,000 check.

But rookie cornerback Will Davis denied that the young players are forced to pay.

"If it ever got to an extent where we all felt uncomfortable in a situation like that, nobody is ever going to force someone to do that," Davis said.

Philbin said he takes player care and safety "very seriously" and that if the NFL review shows that the Dolphins' atmosphere isn't safe, "I will take whatever measures are necessary to ensure that is." Twitter: @abramsonpbp

Dolphins re-sign wide receiver Moore

Wide receiver Marlon Moore, who spent his first three NFL seasons with the Dolphins and was released last week by San Francisco, was re-signed by Miami on Monday.

The 6-foot, 190-pounder played in six of the first eight games this season for the 49ers, making one catch for 6 yards and rushing one time for 9 yards. He entered the NFL with Miami as an undrafted free agent in 2010 and has appeared in 35 games with 13 receptions for 250 yards and two TDs.

A Sacramento, Calif., native, Moore said he kept a close eye on his former team while in the Bay Area.

"I've always wanted the best for them," he said. "Watching 'Tanny' (Ryan Tannehill) basically come into his own and become the elite quarterback everyone wants him to be, watching (Brian) Hartline go down and make plays, Mike Wallace, just to watch those guys and see them succeed, it made me feel real good."

To make room for Moore, the Dolphins waived wide receiver Ryan Spadola, who is expected to return to the practice squad if he clears waivers.

-- Brian Biggane

November 5, 2013

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