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2 posts from November 23, 2013

November 23, 2013

Martin/Incognito investigation tidbits, details; Fins, Heat, UM notes; Marlins contact free agents


Tidbits on the Dolphins’ BullyGate scandal and investigator Ted Wells’ interviews with Dolphins players, coaches and executives this past week:

### Jonathan Martin’s attorney has alleged Martin endured a “malicious physical attack on him by a teammate." And in recent days, Wells has asked some Dolphins players whether they attended a party at the home of Mike Pouncey, where the alleged attack occurred, according to a friend of Martin.

That friend tells us Richie Incognito was the ring-leader that night, in 2012, and the “level of punching” of Martin “became more than playful.” Wells has been trying to get to the bottom of that physical attack allegation, among many others.

### The friend said in general, Martin was harassed by more players than just Incognito and Pouncey and that “so much” hasn’t been reported regarding what Martin endured.

### Besides asking players what they thought of Martin and Incognito and their relationship, Wells also asked many Dolphins about how often they heard the N-word in the locker-room and what they thought of it. Reactions varied widely.

### Some of Wells’ questions caught Dolphins players off guard. One player was asked how it would make him feel if his sister was harassed. Another player was asked what he thought of Pouncey as a person. And another was asked whether he spoke to Martin about his mid-season move to right tackle and whether he asked Martin how he felt about it. (He didn’t.)

### One concern expressed by players is that Wells has nothing to compare this situation to, for perspective, because he hasn’t witnessed conduct in other NFL locker-rooms.

### A Dolphins player (not Martin) who has been subjected to frequent teasing from Incognito went into his meeting reluctant to throw Incognito under the bus. Another Dolphin, before his interview, said Incognito and Pouncey would feed off each other and Pouncey provided the live laugh track while he watched Incognito playfully tease teammates (or harass them, from Martin’s perspective).

### Wells said Saturday night that he has concluded his initial round of interviews with the Dolphins.

In a statement, Wells said his firm has “spent time with every player and coach, as well as key staff members and management. Our work will continue over the next few weeks. I want to thank Stephen Ross, the Dolphins organization and its players, coaches and staff for their complete cooperation throughout this process." 

But one player told NBC 6's Courtney Fallon that he declined Wells' request to meet with him, but changed his mind and agreed to a meeting later in the week.

### Several defensive players said they had nothing useful to tell Wells, and another player said he wasn't sure he would be forthright with Wells. And several said their sessions lasted only 10 minutes or less, including Mike Wallace. Ryan Tannehill told us his interview "was an hour I didn't want to spend."

Mike Pouncey's lasted over an hour, and offensive line coach Jim Turner's lasted two hours, as our Armando Salguero noted. An NFL players union lawyer attended the interviews, but Dolphins players were not accompanied by any team employees. Wells had two colleagues with him during some of the interviews, one of whom asked questions.

### Above all, Dolphins players remain puzzled because many of them had seen Martin and Incognito out together, sometimes with just one or two others.

One player also expressed surprise that Martin kept detailed records of bullying, saying it makes him believe Martin had been planning this for awhile. 

Another player said he has witnessed nothing in the Dolphins locker-room that he hadn’t seen with previous teams.

### Martin, at this point, doesn’t believe returning to the Dolphins is realistic but hasn’t ruled anything out and hasn’t conveyed his intentions to the Dolphins, a friend said. Because the trade deadline has passed, the Martin camp doesn't believe it's likely he will play this season, believing the Dolphins are unlikely to release him.

### A Martin lawsuit hasn’t been ruled out, even though Martin’s friends say he wants to play again eventually and is not doing this for a money grab.

### One NFL scout shared that in his pre-draft write-up of Martin, he said that Martin wasn’t emotionally ready for the NFL. But the Dolphins had no such concerns.

### There have been reports that Incognito was the first person to rise to Martin’s defense when Martin and Dion Jordan got in a tussle at practice a few weeks ago.

But Jordan said: “That’s not true. There were a LOT of people on offense and defense who [joined in] – pushing and shoving.”

### According to a Dolphins source, Incognito paid in the ballpark of $30,000 to quietly settle a case with the woman whom he was accused of sexually harassing and molesting (with a golf club) at a 2012 team charity event.

As ESPN's Adam Schefter has noted, Incognito was summoned to the league office before the 2012 season to discuss two off-field incidents. One was the golf event and the other involved misbehavior that was the result of drinking, according to a Dolphins source not authorized to give other details.

### What would Larry Csonka, one of the Dolphins’ toughest guys ever, have done if he had been left a phone message like the one Incognito left Martin?

“No teammate of mine would ever leave a message like that!” Csonka said, adding he’s “flabbergasted” that the Dolphins believe they need two committees to establish rules on locker-room decorum.

“You have to write down rules of how to treat each other?” Csonka asked incredulously. “That’s beyond me.”


### The question of whether the Dolphins are tipping off plays has resurfaced, with ESPN’s Dan Le Batard mentioning that the Dolphins passed every time Tannehill said “go” and ran every time he said “go-go” last Sunday.

Dolphins defensive lineman Jared Odrick insisted that gives no edge to defensive players because it’s happening so quickly before plays and “we’re going off movement, not sound.”

Tannehill has grown weary of the topic: “It’s not an advantage. We change it up enough just to keep them off guard. If they try and guess and they’re wrong, then we’re going to be deep downfield on them.”

### Even former Dolphin receiver Ted Ginn Jr., who comes to town Sunday with Carolina, has more receptions of 20-plus yards (seven) than Wallace, whose five rank 72nd among receivers.

Wallace, who has maturely handled his frustration in recent weeks, said bluntly: “I’m getting open. That’s not the problem.” Wallace said offensive coordinator Mike Sherman allowed him to switch the side he lines up on “around three or four times last week” and he believes that could help.

### Michael Beasley entered Saturday averaging 33.5 points per 48 minutes –-- sixth highest in the NBA (minimum five games). “But I get excited about myself when I do things most people think I can’t, like getting the third charge of my career” recently.

Heat president Pat Riley has been keeping a very close watch over Beasley. "We talk a lot," Beasley said. Has Riley told Beasley he’s proud of him? “Not yet. Coach Riley is a tough guy. A proud moment would be a wink and nod from him.”

Beasley scored nine points in eight first-half minutes (4 for 4 shooting) Saturday against Orlando but once again did not play in the second half.

### Udonis Haslem, who opened a Subway franchise at Oakwood Plaza in Hollywood this weekend, has gone from starting to not playing at all Saturday vs. Orlando. He also had a DNP-coach's decision Nov. 12 vs. Milwaukee.

### So far, there’s no indication UM’s recent struggles are hurting recruiting. UM oral commitment Braxton Berrios, a four-star receiver from Raleigh, tweeted: “Could’ve went to Oregon or Ohio State. But I decided to bring my team back, and that’s just a Canes thing. You wouldn’t understand.”

### The Marlins have expressed interest in free agent catcher Dioner Navarro, 29, a switch-hitter who hit .300 with 13 homers and 34 RBI in 89 games for the Cubs last season. The Marlins would like to add an offensively-gifted catcher to complement defensively-skilled backup Jeff Mathis.

### The Marlins often like to pursue players who had one bad year after a good one, hoping to get them at a reasonable price. So it’s not surprising they called about Yankees free agent right-hander Phil Hughes, who went 4-14 with a 5.19 ERA in 2013 after going 16-13 in 2012. The Marlins are considering adding an inexpensive veteran starting pitcher.

### To follow up on Friday's media column, Marc Hochman has now officially informed 790/104.3 The Ticket that he's leaving when his contract expires Dec. 31. He is free to join WQAM-560, as afternoon-drive host, on April 1.             

### Please see the last post for UM-Virginia notes, reaction and observations....Twitter: @flasportsbuzz

Postscripts, reaction from UM's win against Virginia

Tidbits and observations from UM’s 45-26 win Saturday against Virginia at Sun Life Stadium:

### UM fans justifiably expected Miami’s eighth win to come sooner, but if it’s any consolation, the Canes (8-3) now have won (at least) eight games for the first time since 2009 and for only the second time since 2005. UM’s win total has risen from 6 to 7 to now 8 (and counting) in Al Golden’s first three seasons.  

And after allowing 41, 42 and 48 points the past three weeks, UM allowed 27, albeit against a dreadful Virginia team. (Hardly a reason for a parade, obviously.)

The season will still be a disappointment because Miami likely won’t win the Coastal (barring a UM win, Duke loss and Virginia Tech loss next week). But a 10-win season --- combined with recent resolution of the NCAA case and a top-five recruiting class --- would at least end the year on an uplifting note.

### Al Golden, afterward on WQAM and during his postgame news conference: “I’m thrilled for the seniors. They’ve been through a lot of adversity. They decided they would come out and fight and not take the easy way out….We had more energy. Our tackling was really good in the third quarter. [But] we gave up a big punt return again. Our time of possession wasn’t very good (22:11)." 

Virginia ran 91 plays and had 483 yards of offense.

"On offense, we have to do a better job. Nobody can be out there that long defensively," Golden said. "We're just not that deep.”

### UM’s defensive backfield was very good for 3 ½ quarters, including Tracy Howard’s interception return for a touchdown to start the game (Howard admitted he knew the play was coming and “he did the same thing in practice,” defensive coordinator Mark D’Onofrio said); Ladarius Gunter's pick and long return to set up a UM TD before halftime; and decent coverage that helped limit Virginia starting quarterback Larry Watford to putrid numbers: 10 for 25 for 106 yards and three picks.

But UM ended the game depleted at cornerback –-- a major concern with UM scheduled to play Friday at Pittsburgh. Miami, already without Artie Burns, lost Ladarius Gunter, Corn Elder and Nate Dortch.

Gunter sustained a neck injury late, left on a stretcher, and was taken by helicopter to Jackson Hospital for observation. [UPDATE: UM announced after 8 p.m. that he has been released from the hospital and will be able to play football again this season.]

Golden said the injuries to Elder and Dortch are "significant." Elder has been planning to join the basketball team as a point guard after football season.

Those injuries left Howard and Antonio Crawford as the only experienced cornerbacks. Larry Hope, who has played mostly on special teams, also is available. UM wants to redshirt cornerback Ray Lewis III.

### UM’s run defense was again bludgeoned in the first half, allowing 208 yards and more than six per carry. But with Virginia forced to throw a lot in the second half, the Cavaliers had just 35 yards on the ground after intermission, closing at 5.3 per carry. Virginia's rushing yardage total was its highest against an FBS opponent.

Virginia quarterback Greyson Lambert put up good numbers (12 for 15, 117 yards) in garbage time late in the game.

### Safety Rayshawn Jenkins, who was told very clearly by coaches that he needed to be more of a physical presence across the middle, made two big hits, including one that nearly got him ejected before the officials correctly changed their mind and merely called it a 15-yard penalty.

### UM’s running game mustered just 90 yards, on 3.6 per carry. In the games Duke Johnson played, UM averaged 192 yards rushing. In the three games since, it’s just 101. Dallas Crawford closed with 55 yards on 16 carries --- including his 13th touchdown --– but his highlight was a terrific block on Stacy Coley’s 62-yard TD.

### The run blocking hasn’t been nearly as dominant as one would expect considering the supposed depth and talent of this offensive line. Aside from splendid work from Ereck Flowers and Brandon Linder, the line has had too many lapses. Seantrel Henderson remains one of this season’s biggest disappointments.

### Of UM's 14 possessions, six ended with either three-and-outs or a turnover before a first down was made. That has been a problem all season.

 ### Virginia outgained UM, 483-304, but Miami’s four takeaways were huge. “That’s something we were lacking, and part of what the problem had been,” D’Onofrio said on WQAM. “We had sudden change stops, red zone stops.”

### D’Onofrio dialed up some timely blitzes, including one from Antonio Crawford that forced a third down incompletion. The hope is that the secondary, which will be more experienced next year, will be good enough in coverage to allow a more aggressive defensive approach next season.

### Stephen Morris’ numbers were again bloated because of yards after catch. In fact, all of Coley’s 62 yards on his TD catch were YAC. Morris closed 13 for 26 for 214 yards with two touchdowns and a pick.

“I had a couple of tears in my eyes, was watering up,” Morris said about running through the smoke for the final time at Sun Life Stadium. “Coming here, you never see yourself leaving.”

### One of the best developments of the season: Coley has becoming an electrifying playmaker. He has seven TDs on the season and has plays of 81, 79 and 62 yards the past three games.

### Aside from Johnson, Allen Hurns clearly has been UM’s most consistent offensive skill position player this season. He had six catches for 126 yards on Saturday, including a 26-yard touchdown, and now has 965 receiving yards for the season. He also moved into 10th place on UM's all-time receptions list (110).

"He's a testament to what we want in our program," Golden said. "He's self-made. He is a leader."

### Aside from blocking, UM got nothing in the passing game from tight ends Saturday, with Clive Walford, Asante Cleveland and Beau Sandland all finishing without a catch. In fact, only three UM players had receptions: Hurns, Coley (5 for 81) and Crawford (2 for 7).

### Good to see some of the young players get more work, especially on defense. Tyriq McCord and Al-Quadin Muhammad, who could become everydown players at outside linebacker, got some work on first and second downs, with mixed results.

McCord should have made a stop for a loss on a third and three, but couldn’t make the tackle, and Virginia got a first down. But give McCord credit for forcing the quarterback fumble that David Gilbert scooped up and sprinted 73 yards for a touchdown.

UM hoped Gilbert, a senior transfer from Wisconsin, would have been a bigger factor this season. “Happy for him,” Golden said.

### Junior defensive end Ufomba Kamalu played a lot, and pretty well, and he factors in significantly into UM’s plans next season. Kamalu gives UM terrific size at end: He’s 289 pounds and UM expects him to be top 300 pounds by next fall. Tackle Earl Moore also got some work.

### UM's 17 INTs are its most since 2003... UM snapped a three-game losing streak against Virginia... The senior class finished 17-9 at Sun Life Stadium.

### Four-star California-based quarterback Brad Kaaya, one of UM’s key commitments, is visiting UCLA this weekend. But he remains orally committed to UM and was asking people on Twitter for a UM score update on Saturday.