Dolphins vets come to Incognito’s defense

Updated: November 6, 2013, 10:09 PM ET

James Walker |

DAVIE, Fla. — Veteran Miami Dolphins players offered overwhelming support for suspended guard Richie Incognito on Wednesday, while also displaying anger toward second-year offensive tackle Jonathan Martin, who left the team last week after claims of harassment and misconduct.

Richie said, ‘Jonathan is like my little brother.’ I think that’s an accurate depiction. He gave him a hard time. He messed with him. But he was the first one there to have his back in any situation.

— Dolphins quarterback Ryan Tannehill, on relationship between Richie Incognito and Jonathan Martin

“I think if you have a problem with somebody — a legitimate problem with somebody — you should say, ‘I have a problem with this,’ and stand up and be a man,” Dolphins offensive tackle Tyson Clabo said. “I don’t think what happened is necessary. I don’t know why he’s doing this, and the only person who knows why is Jonathan Martin.”

Multiple sources confirmed to ESPN on Monday that Incognito used racial epithets and profane language toward Martin on multiple occasions. In a transcript of a voice mail message from April, Incognito referred to Martin as a “half n—– piece of s—,” and added, “F— you, you’re still a rookie. I’ll kill you.”

Representatives for Martin have turned over evidence of harassment to the Dolphins, the NFL and the NFL Players Association.

Some Dolphins players were aware of the contents in the voice mail, but many defended Incognito against claims that he is racist and intended to harm Martin.

“I never thought it was a death threat,” Dolphins receiver Brian Hartline said. “I never thought he was actually going to do the things he said. If you can’t take validity from one part of the voice mail, how do you take validity from the whole voice mail? You can’t pick and choose what parts count and which parts don’t count.”

Dolphins players described Incognito and Martin as good friends. Quarterback Ryan Tannehill even described Martin as a protégé of Incognito’s.

“Richie said, ‘Jonathan is like my little brother,'” Tannehill said of a past conversation. “I think that’s an accurate depiction. He gave him a hard time. He messed with him. But he was the first one there to have his back in any situation.”

Added left tackle Bryant McKinnie, who joined the Dolphins last month: “I thought they were friends. They looked like friends to me. I never seen any tension or anything. I didn’t see this coming.

“The only person who got [punished] was Richie. The other guy, that was his option. He had a choice what he wanted to do. Richie didn’t really have a choice.”

The Dolphins suspended Incognito, a free agent after this season, indefinitely on Sunday for conduct detrimental to the team. The Miami Herald reported Monday that the Dolphins plan to cut ties with the player.

As for Martin, some Dolphins players were asked if he can return to the team’s locker room.

Several players declined to answer that question on Wednesday — almost out of spite.

Martin, a 2012 second-round pick, has two years left on his contract.

“The people who can hurt you the most in this world are the people closest to you,” Hartline said of his stance on Martin and Incognito. “When you mistake one for the other, that’s when you find problems.”

  • A Temple graduate and Hyattsville, Md., native who lives in Miami
  • Joined ESPN in 2008

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