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2 posts from November 15, 2013

November 15, 2013

The Empire strikes back with truth, context

I'm not a big science fiction buff but I am aware of pop culture. You've heard of Star Wars? You've heard of the Empire Strikes Back?

The Dolphins are in full strike back mode the last few days.

On the heels of my report this morning that Dolphins people were indeed not aware of any harassment of Jonathan Martin and the team is confident no evidence of prior knowledge will come out in the NFL investigation, we can now turn our attention to two other matters that lately seemed to damage the team's brand:

The first is the idea that someone within the organization ordered a "Code Red" to "toughen up" Martin. The idea is that someone -- presumably a coach -- told Richie Incognito to make Martin tougher. The South Florida Sun-Sentinel and Palm Beach Post reported that story.

But ProFootballTalk.com on Thursday reported early indications are there was no such order and those reports are wrong. And today I have confirmed there was no such order given to Incognito from anyone within the Dolphins organization and the team is comfortable that will come out when the NFL investigation is completed.

(Understand that all these media reports and allegations have to stand up to scrutiny and proof. In other words, if Incognito or anyone says he was told to "toughen up" Martin but cannot show an email or text or a confession or some tangible evidence of that order, what we have is an unproven allegation. And by the way, Incognito refused to address that issue altogether in his FOX Sports interview, obviously aware he was going to face NFL investigation scrutiny and the requirement of providing actual proof).

So there was no order to "toughen up" Martin.

Something else ...

The report that Jeff Ireland told one of Martin's agents the offensive tackle should have punched Incognito when the agent complained to the general manager about the guard's treatment is not fully in context, I'm told.

The report made it seem that Ireland was suggesting Martin's response should have been to punch Inognito. That has made Ireland seem insensitive to Martin. Indeed, NFLPA Executive Director DeMaurice Smith referred to Ireland during a pre-game interview with ESPN on the topic. 

"The union will be looking at whether or not management in the Dolphins either encouraged or allowed a workplace to become unprofessional," Smith said. "Certainly we know the history of the GM [Ireland] in this case with other issues. Those actions were unacceptable then. If there are actions that were taken or not taken to allow this unprofessional environment to fester, if there were things done to intimidate another player, that's a thing the union will look at."

But here is the problem:

The truth, I'm told by a source, is Ireland did not suggest Martin should have punched Incognito. He instead was asking why Martin had not confronted Incognito on the matter and perhaps even punched him if the treatment was so onerous.

In other words, Ireland was asking why Martin hadn't done anything about the treatment he was alleging.

Different context to the same conversation.

The bottom line is the NFL investigation will not deal in stories citing "at least two sources" that are anonymous or dubious. It will not deal in he-said, he-said allegations. It will deal in cold, hard facts. It will deal in text messages, voice mails, emails, corroboration, provable communications. And it will get the full context of those communications.

Then, and only then, will the true or truer picture of this situation come out.

Source: Dolphins did not know of harassment

A primary reason Dolphins owner Stephen Ross asked the NFL to investigate the harassment allegations leveled by Jonathan Martin against Richie Incognito -- aside from the fact he probably wouldn't know where to start his own investigation -- is he wanted accountability.

The Dolphins owner wanted to know if his coaches or their assistants or the personnel department was aware of the harassment and did nothing about it -- thus making those people complicit in the behavior.

And while the NFL investigtion will have final say on this matter, the Dolphins have done some self-scouting per se on the matter and a person familiar with the direction this is going tells me there is no hard evidence Dolphins personnel people or coaches knew Martin was under duress until after he left the team.

(And assuming that is true, which I now believe it is, the sound you are hearing is a lot of people within the organization feeling much more secure about their jobs).

Understand that we're talking about provable evidence here. We are talking phone texts or e-mails or voice mails that would prove someone was aware of Martin's problem with Incognito. There is apparently none of that.

The source would not go so far as to guarantee there was never a conversation or passing exchange that might remotely link the Dolphins to knowlege of the Incognito-Martin problem.

"I cannot guarantee that because no one knows every single word uttered in every single conversation that has ever taken place within or without the walls of the facility," the source said. "But as to hard evidence, we're comfortable. There's none."

This information, by the way, falls in line with what the Dolphins have pretty much been saying all alone. Coach Joe Philbin has said he was not aware of any harassment of Martin. Players have universally said they were not aware of any harassment. And on Monday, owner Stephen Ross said no one else in the organization knew of such behavior.

“I never heard that," Ross said. "Coach didn’t hear it, nobody heard that. I think you heard from the players, I have not heard that.”

Obviously, this has legal as well as league ramifications. Aside from pointing away from Dolphins personnel under fire, this could also relieve the Dolphins of some but not all responsibility in a workplace violence or harassment suit by Martin. Lawyers tell me Martin doesn't need to prove the Dolphins knew to bring a suit but the team's liability would be lessened.

But here's the thing that still looks bad as a result of this: Apparently nobody on the Dolphins knew anything.

A prominent member of the organization (the starting left tackle) claims he was being harassed by at least one other prominent member of the organization (the starting left guard and a member of the leadership council) and nobody seemed to notice.

Not the head coach.

Not any of his assistants.

No one in personnel.

Not the trainers or equipment managers or anyone else.

Yes, that suggests a disconnect. And that is not good.

But I'm thinking the Dolphins will happily take that because the alternative is much, much worse.