DAVIE, Fla. — A leadership vacuum may have contributed to the troubled relationship between Miami Dolphins offensive linemen Jonathan Martin and Richie Incognito, which has left both players sidelined and the team in turmoil.
The ongoing saga has raised questions about whether coach Joe Philbin and his staff were negligent in allowing issues between Martin and Incognito to fester. Current and ex-players around the NFL say the situation reflects a lack of leadership because teammates of Martin and Incognito didn’t intervene.
NFL officials are trying to determine who knew what when, and whether Incognito harassed or bullied Martin. A second-year tackle from Stanford, Martin left the team last week and is with his family in California to undergo counseling for emotional issues. Incognito has been suspended indefinitely.
A senior partner in a New York law firm with experience in sports cases was appointed Wednesday by NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell to investigate possible misconduct in the Dolphins’ workplace and prepare a report that will be made public.
“If the review reveals anything that needs to be corrected, we will take all necessary measures to fix it,” Philbin said. “I believe in our players, I believe in our staff, I believe in our organization, the people around here. I know why I got into coaching, and I believe in the things that I’ve done.”
Two people familiar with the situation said Wednesday that Martin talked of quitting football earlier in his pro career before leaving the team last week. One person said Martin considered giving up the sport because of the way he was being treated by other offensive linemen on the team. The person added that Marin now wants to continue his football career.
Both people spoke to The Associated Press on condition of anonymity because the Dolphins have said little about Martin’s departure.
Incognito’s harassment of Martin included text messages that were racist and threatening, two other people familiar with the situation previously told the AP. The people spoke on condition of anonymity because the Dolphins and NFL haven’t disclosed the nature of the misconduct that led to Incognito’s suspension.
The team built by Philbin and general manager Jeff Ireland has undergone heavy roster turnover after losing records each of the past four years. Of the 53 players on the squad, 20 are new to Miami this season.
“That’s the one thing I’ve heard from every single former player ... there’s a lack of leadership,” said Jimmy Cefalo, a former Dolphins receiver and now their play-by-play announcer. “They might step in with Richie and say, ‘Look, this has got to change.”’
The Dolphins’ oldest player, 34-year-old John Denney, is a long snapper who sees little action. The second-oldest, 34-year-old Bryant McKinnie, has been with the team less than three weeks. The third-oldest, 31-year-old Tyson Clabo, joined the Dolphins this year.
In 2012 the team’s player leadership council included Reggie Bush, Karlos Dansby and Jake Long, all of whom left after last season.
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