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.
Current and ex-players around the NFL say the situation reflects a lack of leadership because teammates didn’t intervene.
NFL officials are trying to determine who knew what and when, and whether Incognito harassed or bullied Martin. Martin left the team last week and is with his family in California to undergo counseling. Incognito has been suspended indefinitely.
A senior partner in a New York law firm was appointed Wednesday by NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell to investigate possible misconduct in the Dolphins’ workplace.
“If the review reveals anything that needs to be corrected, we will take all necessary measures to fix it,” Dolphins coach Joe Philbin said.
Incognito’s harassment of Martin included text messages that were racist and threatening, according to two people familiar with the situation.
An assertive veteran might have prevented any problems, said former NFL running back LaDainian Tomlinson, now an analyst with NFL Network.
“In every locker room there are jerks; we all have them,” Tomlinson said. “But at the same time, there are always guys that can go and talk to that jerk and say, ‘You’re going overboard.’”
Such comments have annoyed Dolphins players.
Defensive end Cameron Wake said the criticism unfairly undermines the integrity of the organization.
“It’s unfortunate... and it’s hard to hear,” Wake said. “Coach Philbin has done nothing but turn this organization in a positive direction.”
Buffalo Bills center Eric Wood says Incognito went too far with his choice of words.
“The language was a terrible misjudgment,” Wood said. “You just can’t use racial language. You’ve got to have respect for a guy. ... and you’ve got to know when to pull off. And I think he really used some really bad misjudgment.”