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Upcoming NFL report examines Dolphins locker room culture

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The Canadian Press
2/4/2014 4:39:48 PM
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MIAMI -- The NFL's report in the Miami Dolphins bullying case is expected to be released soon, shedding further light on the much-scrutinized, troubled relationship between offensive linemen Jonathan Martin and Richie Incognito.

The report likely will address whether the Dolphins organization was at fault for the locker-room culture that led Martin to leave the team last October. He later said he was harassed daily by teammates, including Incognito, and alleged their racial, aggressive and sexually charged comments played a role in his departure.

Incognito's suspension by the team was lifted Tuesday. Dolphins officials say that was an administrative move agreed to by all parties last year, and had nothing to do with any new developments in the league investigation of the case.

Last week, Dolphins owner Stephen Ross said he has an idea of what will be in the league's report, and indicated he doesn't expect any new revelations. He said he's proud of the way the people running the franchise responded to the scandal.

Martin has said he tried to be friends with Incognito. The two players traded more a thousand text messages in a year's span, and the teasing and vulgar banter went both ways, with references to sex, drugs, violence and bawdy behaviour, often in a jocular tone.

The back-and-forth continued last week. In his first interview since the scandal broke, Martin told NBC persistent vulgar language around the team made him feel trapped. Incognito's attorney Mark Schamel responded with a statement saying Martin was "hiding behind false allegations" rather than dealing with "his poor on-field performance and myriad other issues."

The NFL report will come from New York attorney Ted Wells three months after he was retained by the league to investigate the case, which inspired a national debate about hazing and workplace bullying.

Wells will determine the role of coach Joe Philbin, his staff and Miami management in the case. One issue is whether anyone on the coaching staff ordered Incognito to toughen up Martin, who became a starter as a rookie in 2012 but played poorly at times.

Martin has said people in the organization knew he was unhappy about comments teammates made to him, but he didn't talk to Philbin about it.

The 6-foot-5, 312-pound Martin abruptly left the team Oct. 28. He was briefly hospitalized and then joined his family in California and underwent counselling for emotional issues. Incognito was suspended Nov. 3 and sat out the final eight games.

Both players have said they want to play in 2014, but it likely won't be with the Dolphins. Incognito becomes a free agent next month and will probably sign with another team, and Dolphins are expected to trade or release Martin, who has two years remaining on his contract.

In a tweet Tuesday, Incognito said he supported Martin "100 per cent in his return to football in 2014."

Teammates said the two linemen seemed to be good friends, despite their contrasting backgrounds. Martin, 24, was a classics major at Stanford, while Incognito, 30, was kicked off his team at Nebraska and went on to develop a reputation as one of the NFL's dirtiest players known for out-of-bounds behaviour.

Incognito has said he regrets racist and profane language he used with Martin, but said it stemmed from a culture of locker-room "brotherhood," not bullying. Incognito is white and Martin is black.

Teammates both black and white have said Incognito is not a racist, and they've been more supportive of the veteran guard than they have of Martin.

In November there were reports that Ross might clean house after the season. But Philbin was retained to return for a third season in 2014, and most of his staff remains, including offensive line coach Jim Turner, who worked most closely with Incognito and Martin.

"Jim Turner is an amazing coach and friend," Incognito tweeted Tuesday.

General manager Jeff Ireland left the Dolphins in January after six seasons because of the team's mediocre results, and because he clashed with Philbin over personnel decisions.

Incognito and Martin (Photo: Canadian Press)

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(Photo: Canadian Press)
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