MIAMI — Suspended Miami Dolphins guard Richie Incognito said teammate Jonathan Martin sent him a threatening text message as an apparent joke only a week before their relationship became the subject of a harassment case that has prompted an NFL investigation.
In an interview with Fox Sports televised Sunday, Incognito said he never took the threat seriously. Incognito said he regrets the racist and profane language he used with Martin, but said it stemmed from a culture of locker room ‘‘brotherhood,’’ not bullying.
‘‘A week before this went down, Jonathan Martin texted me on my phone — ‘I will murder your whole . . . family,’ ’’ Incognito said, quoting Martin as using a profanity. ‘‘Now, did I think Jonathan Martin was going to murder my family? Not one bit . . . I knew it was coming from a brother. I knew it was coming from a friend. I knew it was coming from a teammate. That just puts in context how we communicate with one another.’’
Incognito said Martin sent him a friendly text four days after leaving the team to undergo counseling for emotional issues. The message came on the heels of the Dolphins’ overtime victory against Cincinnati.
‘‘Wassup man? The world’s gone crazy lol. I’m good tho congrats on the win,’’ Martin wrote in a text verified by Fox Sports. ‘‘Yeah I’m good man. It’s insane bro but just know I don’t blame you guys at all. It’s just the culture around football and the locker room got to me a little.’’
Martin left the team two weeks ago, and his attorney alleges the second-year pro was harassed daily by teammates, including Incognito. Martin hasn’t spoken publicly but will discuss the case late next week with a special investigator hired by the league.
‘‘This isn’t an issue about bullying,’’ Incognito told Fox. ‘‘This is an issue of my and Jon’s relationship. You can ask anyone in the Miami Dolphins’ locker room who had Jon Martin’s back the absolute most, and they’ll undoubtedly tell you me.
‘‘All this stuff coming out, it speaks to the culture of our locker room, it speaks to culture of our closeness, it speaks to the culture of our brotherhood.’’
Incognito’s phone showed 1,142 text messages between the two players over the past year, Fox reported.
The network said Incognito declined to answer only one question: Did coaches order him to toughen up Martin? The NFL will investigate the role of coach Joe Philbin, his staff, and management in the case.
The Dolphins (4-4) play for the first time since Incognito was suspended when they face Tampa Bay (0-8) on Monday night. Miami’s offensive line will be under even more scrutiny without two starters in Incognito and Martin. Quarterback Ryan Tannehill has been sacked a league-high 35 times.
Incognito is white and Martin is biracial. Teammates both black and white have said Incognito is not a racist.
Incognito said he never sensed that football or the locker room culture were getting to Martin.
‘‘As his best friend on the team, that’s what has me miffed — how I missed this,’’ Incognito said. ‘‘I never saw it coming.’’