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November 07, 2013

Statement from Jonathan Martin attorney here

Jonathan Martin's family this week hired sports attorney David Cornwell to represent the Dolphins offensive lineman. On Thursday evening Cornwell released the following statement:

Jonathan Martin’s toughness is not at issue. Jonathan has started every game with the Miami Dolphins since he was drafted in 2012. At Stanford, he was the anchor for Jim Harbaugh’s “smash mouth” brand of football and he protected Andrew Luck's blind side.

"The issue is Jonathan’s treatment by his teammates. Jonathan endured harassment that went far beyond the traditional locker room hazing.  For the entire season-and-a-half that he was with the Dolphins, he attempted to befriend the same teammates who subjected him to the abuse with the hope that doing so would end the harassment.  This is a textbook reaction of victims of bullying.  Despite these efforts, the taunting continued.  Beyond the well-publicized voice mail with its racial epithet, Jonathan endured a malicious physical attack on him by a teammate, and daily vulgar comments such as the quote

"These facts are not in dispute.

"Eventually, Jonathan made a difficult choice. Despite his love for football, Jonathan left the Dolphins. Jonathan looks forward to getting back to playing football. In the meantime, he will cooperate fully with the NFL investigation.

"Quote from teammate: “We are going to run train on your sister. . . . She loves me. I am going to (expletive) her without a condom and (expletive) in her (expletive).”

Could Martin return to the locker room? Not likely

A ranking Dolphins source told me several days ago, before the iron curtain of an NFL investigation locked the club down tighter than a tuna can, that Richie Incognito would never play for the Dolphins again.

There was apparently no way this football administration could see bringing back Incognito, who is suspended for conduct detrimental to the team and unsigned next year, to this roster after the allegations involving workplace harassment and racial epithets got out.

Well, what about the other player involved?

Could Jonathan Martin, who is on indefinite leave from the team albeit so far paid, ever be brought back?

First, I'm sure the club would hate to lose its second-round investment on an admittedly struggling but nonetheless starting player. Second, the club divesting itself of the portrayed victim in this case might open it up to legal exposure.

But here's the thing: Even if the Dolphins' administration would like to bring back Martin to avoid further problems or even civil action, the locker room does not necessarily look like it wants Martin back. Oh, some players are towing the company line and saying they want Martin to get better and be well. And some are admitting it is not really their call whether Martin returns or not.

But ask their opinion and it is clear the players' are not enthusiastic about the idea of Martin returning to the team. That's because, like it or not, Martin has violated a trust some players' minds.

"I'm not sure how everybody would feel about him, but I mean, that was his situation and he felt he needed to do it then I guess so be it, but some things you like to keep in house," left tackle Bryant McKinnie said.

And how important is that?

"It's pretty important, I mean, a lot of things need to kept in house because that's your family."

Quarterback Ryan Tannehill, perhaps the most non-threatening player on offense and someone with an open mind, admitted re-integrating either Martin or Incognito would be difficult.

“It’s tough," Tannehill said. "Both guys at this point have their rights and wrongs. If they were allowed to come back, if they chose to come back, I’m big on forgiving people. Forgiving people of what they’ve done, getting past that and not crucifying people for their past and moving forward."

But even in stating he's big on forgiving, Tannehill is showing that he believes Martin needs forgiveness.

For what, you might ask?

Martin went AWOL from the team days before a big game. He has not spoken publicly but everyone in the organization and anyone who is following this story understands his representatives have downloaded information from the player and are leaking it to the media, thus sliming Incognito and the Dolphins.

And, ultimately, players don't quite know what to make of Martin anymore. So they do not trust him.

"I haven't been here very long," right tackle Tyson Clabo said. "But I've been here long enough to see that if there was a problem, Jonathan Martin needed to show it. And I've been here long enough to see that those two were thick as thieves and that they went out together and hung out together. They did a lot of stuff together. So if [Martin] had a problem with the way that guy was treating him, he had a funny way of showing it.

"I think that if you have a problem with somebody, a legitimate problem, you should say, 'Hey I have a problem and stand up and be a man.' ... There is no code of silence. I don't think that what happened was necessary. I think it's just [decency]. I don't know why he's doing this and the only person that knows why is Jonathan Martin."

It has been suggested by more than one former Dolphins player that I've talked to that the only way Martin could return to the Dolphins would be with a new coaching staff, new personnel department, and practically new locker room. In other words, the current Dolphins would have to be nuked for his return to work.

Others have told me Martin needs to apologize.

It's an interesting culture, the NFL, one where the alleged victim would have to apologize. But that is how it is.

Dolphins unite in the face of drama (updated)

Everybody is aware Dolphins players hit back on Wednesday. In what seemed like a well practiced, well executed blitz, players throughout the entire locker room defended the team's leadership, defended the team's coaching staff, and mostly, defended Richie Incognito -- giving new context to the Incognito-Martin scandal.

Well, the truth about that apparent orchestrated offensive is that it was kind of orchestrated.

And it went against Joe Philbin's previous explicit orders to players Monday to not discuss the issue in the media. Philbin often tells players the message they should pass to the media.

But by Wednesday, the head coach had changed his mind. Philbin told players in a morning meeting to defend themselves.

And as a group of players, fed up with the scandal, the Dolphins broke their silence.

"We were at a point where we weren't told to say anything. We weren't going to talk. There's an investigation. Plain and simple. You guys expected that," receiver Brian Hartline said. "And now we're able to say our opinion and really protect ourselves from being bullied by [the media] because we weren't talking. Nobody said a word. We weren't fighting back. There were no comments from Richie. There were no comments from us. And we just sat back and listened to it a couple of days.

"And we got kind of tired of it. We got to the point, and you guys can judge, but it caught us all off guard and it's a shame it happened."

Quarterback Ryan Tannehill said players talked about the scandal as a team and decided to come closer as a team.

“Well yes, it’s nonstop," Tannehill said. "I feel like today’s been much better. Guys aren’t discussing the whole thing like the past few days. Obviously, everyone’s hearing about it. Our phones are blowing up from anyone we’ve ever come in contact about the situation. There has been a lot of chatter about it but, today I think guys are happy to stick to each other, have each other’s backs and get ready to play.”

There has been speculation about how disastrous this issue could be to the Dolphins' on-field chances.

I think that speculation is going to be proven wrong. I don't see a team divided. I don't see a team cracking under pressure.

I see a team that is under external pressures but not necessarily divided internally.

We won't know until Monday night in Tampa when the Dolphins play an 0-8 opponent that, guess what, also has had its share of drama.

[Update: The players were told to get back on message today -- which is to say, stop talking again. "We've been told to only talk about Tampa Bay," guard Nate Garner said.]

[Correction: Previously I was told Philbin's orginal orders stood Wednesday. They did not. He changed them Wednesday and changed them again Thursday.]   

Sage Rosenfels: Ireland 'worst GM'

First the ProFootballTalk story that implicates Jeff Ireland as having knowledge of Jonathan Martin's complaints that Richie Incognito was making his life difficult. And now a former Dolphins player is taking to twitter gutting the Dolphins general manager with his words.

Sage Rosenfels played for the Dolphins from 2002 to 2005 and then for a short time in 2011. And during that second stint he acquired a distaste for Ireland.

"I played for 5 teams and 9 GMs and Ireland is the only 1 I had a problem with," Rosenfels tweeted today. "I only spent two weeks on the Dolphins when Ireland was the GM. In that short time he won the award for worst GM in my career."

Then, on twitter, Rosenfels added a hashtag -- #jerk 

And then, in the context of the Incognito-Martin scandal on his mind, Rosenfels went on to describe his problem:

"My reasons for my disdain for Ireland are a long story. It took about an hour to find out what everyone in that locker room thought of him. Two months after being put on Non Football Injury list with mono, I had gotten healthy and wanted to play. He wouldn't let me off NFI.....because the Dolphins played the Raiders that week and he didn't want them to sign me as I knew the Phins offense. Makes sense except...the Raiders were the only NFL team that had 4 QBs on their roster. He waited until late Friday to release me figuring nobody would....sign me that late in the week. Luckily, the Vikings cut McNabb and signed me that night. There is more but that is the basics of it.

"I understand GMs always put their teams first. I respect that. But he was being a jerk just because he could. That's why he won the award. Everyone gets screwed over at some point in their career. It's the business. But there is story after story that has the same ring to it."

Rosenfels, obviously believing the ProFootballTalk story on Ireland, also said: "I have no reason to help out either side. I hope it ends sooner than later. Just giving my two cents. The whole situation is a tragedy."

Actually, Rosenfels was represented during his playing days by agent Rick Smith. And Smith is one of the agents representing Martin.

So I reached out to Rosenfels and asked him to address that apparent bias.

"I haven't even talked to Rick," he told me. "I'd say the same thing if IMG or Dave Dunn represented Martin. Or if Rick represented Richie."

Obviously, this is a sad story for the entire Dolphins organization. Players in the locker room are expressing their opinions and they solidly back Incognito. Players around the league are expressing their opinions and they're ripping the entire Dolphins organization and its leadership structure.

And today two former Dolphins -- Lydon Murtha and Rosenfels -- are sharing their thoughts. And neither is too impressed with Ireland or the Dolphins coaching staff.

Reports: Dolphins knew internally despite denials

Several new layers of the onion that is the Incognito-Martin-NFL review scandal are being peeled back by ProFootballTalk.com and Monday Morning Quarterback this morning. And believing the information in both items should make the Dolphins cry.

In PFT, Mike Florio reports "Dolphins general manager Jeff Ireland received a call from Martin’s agent, Rick Smith, before Martin left the team on October 28. Smith complained to Ireland about the manner in which Incognito was treating Martin.

"Ireland, according to the sources, suggested to Smith that Martin physically confront Incognito. Ireland specifically mentioned that Martin should “punch” Incognito."

In MMQB, Peter King had former Dolphins offensive lineman Lydon Murtha write a first-person account of what he saw in the Dolphins locker room of the relationship between Incognito and Martin and the rest of the organization. And he writes, in part, this:

"Incognito was made a scapegoat for the hell coming down on the Dolphins organization, which in turn said it knew nothing about any so-called hazing. That’s the most outlandish lie of this whole thing. The coaches know everything. The coaches know who’s getting picked on and in many cases call for that player to be singled out. Any type of denial on that side is ridiculous."

And taken on its face -- and if true -- this is truly problematic for Dolphins coaches and Ireland.

If the NFL Review, which began Wednesday, shows that one of Martin's agents alerted Ireland and thus the Dolphins that his client felt uncomfortable or harassed or bullied or upset in any fashion and the response from someone as high in the Dolphins command structure as Ireland was to simply suggest Martin "punch" Incognito, it shows a callous disregard for Martin's well-being.

If, as Murtha contends, coaches know everything, then we have a conspiracy on our hands.

And worse, we have a cover-up.

Consider that Dolphins coach Joe Philbin has said on numerous occasions the Dolphins didn't know anything about Martin's uncomfortable feelings regarding Incognito. Consider that on Sunday -- a full six days after Martin left the team and Philbin visited him at the hospital where he was seeking emotional help -- the Dolphins released a statement dismissing allegations of bullying as merely "speculation."

And yet ... these reports.

The Dolphins can only hope that context and full disclosure and facts over opinion all work on their behalf to overshadow this kind of information.

What do I mean by that?

Well, take the Florio report. Obviously there are only two people on that phone conversation between Ireland and Smith. And Ireland isn't talking to anyone per the Dolphins policy of not commenting during the ongoing NFL review and Smith is obviously the source.

And as Smith's agenda is to show cause on Martin's behalf, the information does exactly that.

But I cannot believe an agent calls an NFL GM and they talk about a topic so sensitive and the only theme coming out of the conversation is "punch" Incognito. Ireland would have to be an unserious goof for that to be true. (And he is not).

Perhaps he suggested Martin "punch" Incognito in passing. And perhaps after doing that, the phone call became more serious. We. Do. Not. Know.

One thing: Ireland has two autistic daughters. He knows what it is to have children who are singled out on a daily basis. I find it hard to believe he simply dismissed the idea that one of his players was being singled out in such a cavalier manner.

[Update: Florio, a friend who honors me by reading this blog, emailed me this morning when he saw this post. He writes in part: "The context was that Smith was complaining about Incognito and Ireland expressed confusion as to why this was an issue and said that Martin should go punch him."]

As to Murtha's contention that coaches knew. That is entirely possible. His saying it makes it sound probable. Yet, he does not know. The last time Murtha was in the Dolphins locker room was during the 2012 training camp. It's been fully 15 months since he's been around.

So he's speculating. As Peter King, who runs MMQB, is a good reporter, I assume he read Murtha's draft assertions and asked questions. And the question that begs asking is, "Which coaches know? Name names."

No one is named by Murtha. He paints the assertion with a wide brush stroke. And this investigation is going to require precision stenciling.

So we need specifics. We need more context. We need more information.

But if the allegations in these two reports are accurate, Ireland and the coaching staff are in a world of trouble.