It's all about football for the Dolphins these days.
As I write in my column in today's Miami Herald, the Dolphins are focused on the New England Patriots and getting to the playoffs and little else. Yes, there is a troubling history with New England the Dolphins must overcome. But that's all about football.
The spectre of scandal and possible firings or suspensions stemming from the NFL investigation that dominated the headlines last month has faded.
The most obvious evidence the investigation has faded was an ESPN report Tuesday afternooon that said NFL investigator Ted Wells canceled his follow-up interviews with the Dolphins. The report also said the investigation may not be completed before the end of the year.
I have other news:
This investigation, completed or not, may not be released until after the Super Bowl.
Think of it, the last thing the NFL wants the final month of the season is the narrative to turn away from football and toward an uncomfortable scandal. It's unfair to the Dolphins, who are in the middle of a playoff hunt, and the league that is enjoying perhaps its most popular time of the year as fans, the media and teams gear up for the postseason.
So do the investigation findings come out now? No.
Well, how about right after the regular-season? Well, if the Dolphins are in the postseason -- which is a possibility if they win out the final three weeks starting with New England on Sunday -- that would pose a major distraction amid playoff preparations. So the findings aren't coming out then.
Indeed, even if the Dolphins are not in the playoffs the last thing the NFL wants is for the national narrative to turn away from the postseason and the league's best teams to focus on something that happened in an isolated incident or series of incidents between two players on a non-playoff qualifier months and months ago.
No, the NFL is going to make sure the integrity of its postseason is not damaged. And the postseason, as we all know, does not end until after the Super Bowl.
And that's when the league would most likely release the investigation's results.
That, of course, leaves some unresolved issues.
So let us resolve them.
I reported last month that Richie Incognito would not play for the Dolphins again once he was placed on suspension for conduct detrimental to the team. That report stands. Incognito's days in Miami are over.
There has been speculation that the Dolphins and Incognito's representatives came to an agreement that would bring the deposed guard back to the team. False. There was an agreement but that was one where the Dolphins agreed to pay Incognito in exchange for him not challenging the suspension via a grievance. Indeed, the agreement actually extended the suspension.
So Incognito basically agreed to sit out and be paid.
It has further been reported Incognito's suspension must end next week. Incognito's suspension will definitively not end next week. His camp will or has already agreed to extend the suspension through the end of the season.
Yes, he will be paid. But the suspension will continue.
The reason this is the course that must be taken is that neither the NFL (which is driving this entire situation) nor the Dolphins want to be placed in a position to make a roster decision or any type of decision on the player before the report's findings are released.
The Dolphins certainly don't want to spend at least one day next week distracted from their preparations for Buffalo because they're explaining why they cut Incognito and accounting for other Incognito-related issues like the resurfacing of questions about his, ahem, golfing escapades. Plus such a move would spark renewed interest in the whole issue and, remember, the NFL doesn't want that.
So Incognito will agree to simply remain suspended. No roster move. No headlines. No controversy. Just ... silence -- like the last few weeks.
Why, you ask, would Incognito agree to such a course?
Didn't Peter King of NBC and SI report at least one playoff-caliber team would take Incognito if he's cut? Wouldn't Incognito want that?
Yeah, whatever. The NFL doesn't want that. And Incognito is going to agree to do what the NFL wants.
That's simple: It is clear Incognito engaged in some behavior Jonathan Martin perceived as harassment or bullying. Incognito admitted to that voice mail so he's admitted to some harassment. So he is going to be punished for that. Also, bringing unwanted publicity and attention upon his team and the league -- which in of itself is a violaton of the NFL personal conduct policy -- also merits punishment.
So Incognito will agree to remain suspended the final couple of weeks of this season, with pay of course, in return for a guarantee that there will be no further discipline from the NFL beyond this season. He would be free to return to the league next season.
That return, again, would be with another team. He is an unrestricted free agent in the offseason. The Dolphins are not going to re-sign him.
As for Martin, I'm reporting his days with the Dolphins are finished as well. The Miami locker room that was clearly on Incognito's side in this whole affair will not be a suitable place for Martin to make his return. He'll be traded to the highest bidder at some point in the offseason.
Unless I miss my educated guess, that is how this story and scandal that was so explosive for multiple weeks in November will be turned into a much smaller story that captures the headlines for a short time in the offseason.
The NFL knows how to handle a crisis, folks.