The Dolphins this morning released to the media a statement about right tackle Jonathan Martin. It reads:
"The Miami Dolphins, including Coach Joe Philbin and Jonathan's teammates, have been in communication with Jonathan and his family since his departure from the club and continue to be in contact. Our primary concern for Jonathan is his overall health and well-being. As an organization, we take any accusations of player misconduct seriously. The notion of bullying is based on speculation and has not been presented to us as a concern from Jonathan or anyone else internally. The reports that the NFLPA is investigating our players are inaccurate. Additionally, the NFL offered its assistance during this time, which we appreciated and gladly accepted. We will continue to make Jonathan's health and well-being a focus as we do with all of our players."
The statement is push-back against a FOX Sports report citing unnamed sources stating Martin was victimized by bullying in the Dolphins locker room and an ESPN report that cited unnamed sources saying left guard Richie Incognito was the subject of an NFL Players Association investigation into bullying tactics against Martin.
Additionally, Incognito, who was the focus of the ESPN report written by Adam Schefter and Chris Mortensen, went on something of a twitter rant this morning demanding the record and his name be cleared.
Incognito tweeted to Shefter: "Stop slandering my name. You hide behind "sources" who are not man enough to put their name behind the BS you report."
@AdamSchefter Enough is enough If you or any of the agents you sound off for have a problem with me, you know where to find me #BRINGIT— Richie incognito (@68INCOGNITO) November 3, 2013
@espn @CBSSports @NBCSports @FOXSports @ProFootballTalk I want my name CLEARED
— Richie incognito (@68INCOGNITO) November 3, 2013
It is interesting that coach Joe Philbin was asked directly on Thursday and Friday if indeed Martin was being bullied. He could have crushed the story right then and there. Instead, he said he was aware of the allegations but did not chose to confirm or deny them at the time.
“I’m aware of this report. I can say without question that we emphasize a culture of team-first accountability and respect for one another. Any behavior that deviates from that is inconsistent from the values of our organization. That’s all I’ll say in regards to that."
He was asked directly if he has seen any bullying in the locker room.
"Again, this is something we take very seriously and will not be tolerated,"
So instead of simply saying on Friday he was not aware of any bullying or had not heard complaints of any bullying, Philbin let the situation fester, let what the Dolphins now say was wrong information continue to drive the narrative. Until, of course, the release of today's statement that answers the question three days later.
And the cost for that charade?
Incognito's name was associated with bullying. Martin's public image, already troubled after he left the team due to his emotional ills, looks worse because the bullying story made him look as if he has not ability to defend himself.
In other words, the Dolphins are now trying to manage a public relations problem they helped foster by talking in circles when asked direct questions last week.