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.