Editor’s Note: This story was prepared using reports filed by The Associated Press.
Miami Dolphins fans are venting on Twitter and complaining on radio about the team owner, the coach, the general manager and even the backup left guard.
A harassment case and a loss to a winless team can have that effect. A staggered by a scandal that has prompted an NFLinvestigation, the Dolphins must now try to bounce back from their worst loss of the year. Rather than taking out their frustrations of the past two weeks on the hapless Tampa Bay Buccaneers, the Dolphins came out flat Monday night, dug a 15-0 hole and lost 22-19.
The loss left the Dolphins at 4-5, with the five defeats coming in the past six games. Fed-up fans took the latest loss hard and many said owner Stephen Ross should fire everyone, himself included. With the harassment case involving offensive linemen Jonathan Martin and
Richie Incognito likely to remain unresolved for at least a couple of weeks, second-year coach Joe Philbin will try to salvage the season beginning Sunday at home against San Diego.
Philbin, now 11-14 at Miami, won a vote of confidence before Monday’s game from Ross but that could change depending on the findings of the NFL’s special investigator. He was scheduled to meet this Wednesday with Martin, who is with his family in Los Angeles and receiving counseling for emotional issues but the NFL has insisted that its investigator meet with Martin first, probably on Friday.
The second-year pro suddenly left the team two weeks ago and his attorney has alleged Martin was harassed daily by teammates, including Incognito, who has been suspended.
The case inspired a national debate about workplace bullying, attracting a throng of media that has filled the Dolphins locker room the past week. The team, however, declined to blame the case on its latest loss.
“Yes we faced a lot of distractions but, leading up to this game, the last few days I’ve had a good feeling that the guys were ready to play,” quarterback Ryan Tannehill said.
A bigger factor might have been the absence of the two starters in a line that was already lousy. At Tampa, the Dolphins netted a franchise record-low 2 yards in 14 carries. That’s 5.1 inches per carry. At that rate, they would need 71 carries to get a first down.
While the scoreboard in Tampa argued otherwise, Tannehill said the harassment case unified the team. He predicted the Dolphins will yet bounce back.
“I feel like we’ve really come together over this adversity,” he said. Speaking in Tampa before Monday night’s game, Ross broke his silence on the bullying scandal that has engulfed his team, saying he’s appalled by Martin’s allegations of daily harassment by teammates. He said he was looking forward to meeting Martin.
“I think that can help us move forward,” he said. “I’d like to hear from him what had happened, why he felt that way and what we did and what we could have done to prevent something like this from happening. I want to hear the circumstances, the facts.”
He vowed to get to the bottom of the allegations and create a locker room culture that “suits the 21st century.”
“It couldn’t have been a worse nightmare,” said Ross, who was joined at a press conference by team president and chief executive officer Tom Garfinkel.
“We simply don’t know what happened or didn’t happen yet,” Garfinkel said. “We want to know the truth.” Ross strongly endorsed Philbin, his second-year coach, saying he had the “utmost confidence” in the man he hired in 2012. He did not express support for beleaguered general manager Jeff Ireland.
Ross said he has formed an independent advisory group that includes Tony Dungy, Don Shula, Dan Marino, Jason Taylor and Curtis
Martin to review organizational conduct policies and to make recommendations on areas for improvement.
“We need to look at ourselves. We have to examine everything internally,” Ross said. “This is so appalling to me. I know I’m capable of overreacting. I want to get everybody’s feedback because we all know the football locker room is a different workplace than most of us are accustomed to. I don’t want to make any excuses.”
Neither Ross nor Garfinkel addressed an ESPN report that Martin is likely done for the season and feels he cannot return to the Dolphins.
Martin’s agent Kenneth Zuckerman did not respond to a request for comment from The Associated Press. Ross said he he’d also like to meet with Incognito.
“He deserves to be heard,” Ross said. The 6-foot-5, 312-pound Martin left the team two weeks ago. His attorney has alleged that Martin was harassed daily and Incognito acknowledged leaving a voicemail for Martin in April, in which he used the “n” word, threatened to kill his teammate and threatened to slap Martin’s mother.
Incognito is white and Martin is black, from biracial parents. Teammates both black and white have said Incognito is not a racist and they’ve been more supportive of the veteran guard than they have of Martin.
The 6-3, 319-pound Incognito has long been labeled one of the NFL’s dirtiest players with a reputation for out-of-bounds behavior off the field. But this season he was a member of the player leadership council, raising questions about the role of Philbin, his staff and Miami management in the case.
In an interview with Fox Sports, Incognito said Martin sent him a threatening text message as an apparent joke only a week before their relationship became the subject of the harassment case that has prompted the NFL investigation.
Incognito said he never took the threat seriously and regretted the racist and profane language he used with Martin, adding that it stemmed from a culture of locker-room “brotherhood,” not bullying.
“A week before this went down, Jonathan Martin texted me on my phone: ‘I will murder your whole … family,’” Incognito said, quoting Martin as using a profanity. “Now did I think Jonathan Martin was going to murder my family? Not one bit. … I knew it was coming from a brother. I knew it was coming from a friend. I knew it was coming from a teammate. That just puts in context how we communicate with one another.”
Responding to the interview, Martin’s attorney tweeted the message Incognito quoted. The message was accompanied by two photos of a laughing woman holding a dog, suggesting it was intended as a joke.
“JMart’s text 2 Richie Incognito. U decide…..” attorney David Cornwell tweeted. That was the only response by Cornwell or Martin’s agent to requests from The Associated Press for comment on Incognito’s interview.
Incognito’s phone showed 1,142 text messages between the two players over the past year, Fox reported. The network said Incognito declined to answer only one question: Did coaches order him to toughen up Martin? The NFL will investigate the role of Philbin, his staff and Miami management in the case.