The highly anticipated Ted Wells report, the NFL-ordered investigation into the happenings between Miami teammates Richie Incognito and Jonathan Martin that ultimately led to Martin leaving the team last Oct. 28, was finally released on Friday, and shed a great deal of light — little of it flattering — on several individuals in the Dolphins organization.
The one thing the report certainly did not do was “bury” Martin and his “camp,” as Incognito tweeted would happen during a Wednesday afternoon outburst.
The 144-page report, which summarized interviews with more than 100 individuals as well as text messages and other materials, actually did the opposite: It painted a picture of Incognito and fellow offensive linemen Mike Pouncey and John Jerry as textbook bullies, repeatedly preying on Martin, another young lineman who is referred to as Player A in the report, and one of the team’s assistant athletic trainers.
It also serves to show that head coach Joe Philbin almost incomprehensibly had no idea of the behavior that was going on right under his nose despite his insistence with players that they have respect for one another, and even worse, that the man Philbin charged with coaching the offensive line, Jim Turner, was a participant in the harassment of Player A.
As noted in the conclusion of the report, “The NFL is not an ordinary workplace.” That is true, and things such as off-color jokes, insults, and hazing are found in every locker room.
But in Miami, it crossed the line, and not just in the eyes of investigators.
Fifteen-year NFL veteran Chad Brown, who played with the Steelers, Seahawks, and Patriots, read the report and said what happened with the Dolphins was “not the norm in my experience.”
“Every locker room at every level I’ve been in had hazing, tough jokes, etc., but I’ve never seen anything like the Dolphins stuff,” Brown wrote in a text message. “Reading that stuff is crazy. Not sure how those guys thought that was going to end well.”
Former offensive lineman Ross Tucker, who played with four teams, including the Patriots, wrote on Twitter that what happened in Miami went “beyond” anything he’d seen in his career, and current Packers guard T.J. Lang, also on Twitter, asked that people not stereotype NFL players “for what’s going on down in Miami. That type of stuff is not common in other locker rooms.”
Clearly Incognito felt enabled in Miami: He was voted to the team’s leadership committee, and despite some Miami players acknowledging in the report that the veteran could be loud and belligerent, particularly when he was drinking (some even called Incognito the “Tornado” during those times), it appears no one publicly intervened on Martin’s behalf.
That includes Martin himself.
The report concedes that Martin developed “an odd but seemingly close friendship with Incognito.” But a psychologist Wells consulted with believed Martin’s behavior was consistent with that of a victim of abusive treatment — he believed that being close to Incognito, trying to fit in, and simply putting up with the terrible things he said, which included repeated, sexually vulgar things about Martin’s sister and mother, might help the taunts end.
The reality was that because Martin never stood up for himself, Incognito’s behavior persisted and worsened. But Martin wasn’t the only one. Player A in the report was consistently called homosexual slurs and subjected to inappropriate touching, primarily by Incognito, Pouncey, and Jerry. Even Turner was in on this “joke,” as during Christmas 2012 he gave gift bags to his linemen that contained, among other things, blow-up dolls; female dolls for most of the players, but a male doll for Player A.
In his interview with Wells, Turner said he couldn’t remember doing that, though several others interviewed recalled that he had.
In Incognito’s eyes, Player A was “a good kid” that took the alleged harmless fun in stride.
Their loutish behavior toward the assistant trainer, who was born in Japan, was especially egregious. In addition to calling him “Jap,” “Chinaman,” and a “dirty Communist” among other things, on Dec. 7, 2012, Pearl Harbor Day, Incognito, Pouncey, and Jerry put on Japanese headbands with the rising sun on them, headbands the trainer had given them, and as written in the report, “jokingly threatened to harm the assistant trainer physically in retaliation for the Pearl Harbor attack.”
Though the trainer sent Martin a text after Martin left the team saying that Incognito and Co. could be “relentless sometimes” and that someday he wanted to do what Martin did (i.e. leave the team), in interviews with Wells he did not want to be forthright because he did not want to lose players’ trust.
Again, a man in a position of oversight, this time head trainer Kevin O’Neill, not only did nothing to stop the verbal abuse, he allegedly laughed at the taunts.
The question now is what happens to those involved. As of Friday night, Turner and O’Neill were still employed by the Dolphins, and Martin, Pouncey, and Jerry were still under contract. Incognito is as well, but he is slated to become a free agent next month.
Dolphins owner Stephen Ross has endured quite the year — from the Martin-Incognito incident to Pouncey being served with a grand jury subpoena by Massachusetts State Police after Miami’s loss to the Patriots in October to the end-of-season collapse his team suffered to fall out of playoff contention to the embarrassment of general manager candidates turning down chances to interview and run the personnel side of his team. Ross released a statement on Friday night, after he had the chance to read the entire Wells report.
“Obviously, the language that was used and the behavior as described is deeply disturbing. Although the report commended Joe Philbin’s commitment to promoting integrity and accountability throughout the Dolphins organization, I told Ted Wells personally during my visit with him that we are committed to addressing the issues outlined in this report,” the statement read in part. “We must work together towards a culture of civility and mutual respect for one another. It is important to me, important to Coach Philbin, and important to the entire Dolphins organization.
“We are committed to a positive workplace environment where everyone treats each other with respect.”
The statement continues, with Ross pledging “enhancements” in the areas of sports psychology, human resources, and player engagement.
However, there was no mention of Incognito, Pouncey, Jerry, or even Martin. It remains to be seen whether any of the players will remain part of the organization and will be part of the changes Ross vowed.
Just when it appeared public sentiment was beginning to turn for Incognito, and it seemed that perhaps Martin was making his teammate the scapegoat for larger, deeply personal problems he was dealing with, Incognito took to Twitter on Wednesday and showed that he hasn’t changed one iota. His initial missive was the one addressing Martin, saying, “The truth is going to bury you and your entire ‘camp.’ You could have told the truth the entire time.”
Incognito followed that up with words for Martin’s agent, Kenny Zuckerman, for releasing a voicemail Incognito left for Martin last April in which he called him a [racial slur] among other things, and then wrote that he was “guilty of being a loyal friend and good teammate,” apologizing for his poor language while saying he never denied the things he was accused of saying.
But not knowing when to stop, something others said Incognito had trouble doing, he wrote one last thing on Wednesday, revealing that “Jonathan Martin told me he thought about taking his own life in MAY 2013 b/c he wasn’t playing well. Told me he felt worthless.”
There are few things more intimate than sharing thoughts of suicide. While one can question why Martin told his tormentor of those thoughts, it is possible that it was another attempt to make Incognito see just how low he was feeling in a desperate hope to get him to stop.
Incognito, for who knows what reason, decided to tell that to the world, a terrible betrayal of a man he alleges he once considered a good friend.
And as if to further illustrate how out of touch with reality he is, Incognito returned to Twitter on Friday afternoon, a couple of hours after the Wells report was released.
“Pleeeeease Stop The Hate. Happy Valentines Day :)”
Incognito has a long history of bad behavior, both on and off the field. In college, he was kicked off the teams at Nebraska and Oregon, with the Cornhuskers at one point making him go through anger management counseling.
In 2009, his final season with the Rams, a Sporting News poll named him the NFL’s dirtiest player, as Incognito was fined a total of $85,000 for infractions while with St. Louis. But he had just one penalty for 10 yards in eight games in 2013.
When he signed with Miami in 2010, his contract contained a “character clause” not found in other deals. Incognito has said he set about fixing himself, telling an NFL.com reporter that alcohol and drug problems had fueled his behavior for the better part of the previous decade.
Incognito will be 31 in July. He is an average lineman at this point. And he more than anyone else has hurt his chances of finding employment again, particularly with his Twitter rants last week. He owned up to his behavior in Wells’s investigation, but has shown no remorse and, it appears, has not learned his lesson — or at the very least, how to hold his tongue for the sake of appearances.
If Michael Sam, the defensive end who announced last Sunday he is gay, just a couple of weeks before the NFL Combine, might be shunned by some teams in the draft because of the potential “distraction” he’ll cause, wouldn’t signing Incognito do the same?
The Wells report detailed Incognito using racial, homophobic, and ethnic slurs, and at one point exchanging text messages with a white former teammate that said guns were best used for “picking off zombies . . . and black people.”
All manner of activist groups, from the NAACP to GLAAD, would be lined up to protest the team that signs Incognito. That seems like just the kind of distraction a team would not want.
McCourty foundation hits home for family
After their father died when they were just three years old, one of the family members who offered the most help to Devin and Jason McCourty’s mother was their aunt, Winifred McCourty.
Winifred spent a good amount of time with her nephews — when she wasn’t in the hospital because of sickle cell disease. The disorder, in which red blood cells are sickle, or crescent, shaped instead of normal, disc-shaped cells, can block blood flow in the vessels of limbs and organs, which can cause organ damage and lead to an increased risk of infection in those who have it.
Last year, when Devin, a Patriots safety, and Jason, a Titans cornerback, decided to start a charity, their aunt was the first person who came to mind.
The twins’ foundation, Tackle Sickle Cell, held its first two of three 2014 events on Saturday, with a blood drive and fund-raiser in New Jersey, where they went to high school and college, not far from Nyack, N.Y., where they were born.
Their second annual 5-kilometer run/walk will be held in June.
In 2013, through the blood drive and run/walk, the pair raised $40,000. This year, they’re hoping to “blow what we did last year out of the water,” Devin said.
The money goes to kids with sickle cell who are headed to college.
“Families spend so much money on their health-care needs, so the money goes a long way. They’re always there, in and out of the hospital. It’s big once they get college-aged to help them out,” Devin said.
The National Institutes of Health estimates that 70,000 to 100,000 Americans are afflicted with sickle cell, and the vast majority of those are African-American, though Hispanic-Americans are also affected.
But they’ve been able to bring needed attention to a cause that has touched someone they’re so close to and the African-American community at large.
“It’s awesome just to be affiliated with the charity, you’re helping people, but to be helping African-Americans, that goes a long way,” Devin said. “At the walk [last year], to see African-Americans and other minorities come out and say thank you, and it was a huge relief that they had help, you really feel part of the community.”
Though doctors told her she’d likely live only into her mid-30s, Winifred McCourty is now 62. Though she needs an oxygen tank and is legally blind, she was in Indianapolis two years ago when Devin and the Patriots played in the Super Bowl, and she’ll be front and center when Jason gets married in April.
For more information on Tackle Sickle Cell, go to tacklesicklecell.org.
Friday was a bad day for those invested in the NFL’s image: Not only did the Wells report come out, but former Packers, Vikings, and Saints safety Darren Sharper, a five-time Pro Bowl selection who played in two Super Bowls, winning one with New Orleans, was formally charged with drugging and raping two women by the Los Angeles County District Attorney. According to filings in Los Angeles, Sharper is suspected of committing seven rapes and 11 acts of drugging across four states — California, Louisiana, Arizona, and Nevada, all within the last six to seven months . . . Greg Schiano may be gone from Rutgers, but the Patriots’ connection to the Scarlet Knights continues. Last week, Rutgers named Ben McDaniels receivers coach on Kyle Flood’s staff. Yes, Ben McDaniels is Josh McDaniels’s younger brother. Ben was an offensive assistant on Schiano’s Tampa Bay staff in 2012-13. Prior to that, he was on his brother’s staff in Denver . . . According to the NFL Players Inc. top 25 sales list, merchandise with Seattle quarterback RussellWilson’s name was the top seller for the period from September through November. The top six were all quarterbacks: Wilson, the 49ers’ Colin Kaepernick, the Broncos’ Peyton Manning, the Redskins’ Robert Griffin III, the Patriots’ Tom Brady, and the Packers’ Aaron Rodgers. Houston defensive end J.J. Watt was seventh. Rob Gronkowski, New England’s rehabbing tight end, ranked 22d . . . Safety Ed Reed probably wasn’t much of a Houston fan — after signing a three-year free agent deal with the Texans last year, he was released after appearing in just seven games — but things got worse last week. The five-time All-Pro withdrew $50,000 cash from a bank in the city, and while Reed was at a second bank, someone smashed the window of his Audi and stole the bag with the $50,000.Shalise Manza Young can be reached at email@example.com. Follow her on Twitter @shalisemyoung. Material from interviews, wire services, other beat writers, and league and team sources was used in this report.