Head coach Tony Dungy and the Indianapolis Colts had the chance to draft Richie Incognito in 2005, but passed, questioning the offensive lineman's character.
“I don’t know Richie Incognito personally,’’ Dungy, now an analyst for NBC's "Football Night in America," told Savannah Guthrie on TODAY Friday. “I know the reports that we had, the difficulties that he had in college, (and) some of the incidents that he had on the field and off the field. We just didn’t want to bring that into our locker room. That’s not to say he’s the guilty party in this. I don’t know everything that happened there, but I do know the reputation that Richie Incognito had, and it wasn’t what we wanted in our locker room.”
On Thursday night, the lawyer for Miami Dolphins lineman Jonathan Martin released a statement alleging verbal and physical bullying of his client at the hands of Incognito, who has been suspended by the team while the situation is investigated. The NFL has named attorney Ted Wells as the lead investigator into the bullying allegations, and his investigation could begin as early as Friday night.
“Jonathan endured harassment that went far beyond the traditional locker room hazing,’’ lawyer David Cornwell said in the statement. “For the entire season-and-a-half that he was with the Dolphins, he attempted to befriend the same teammates who subjected him to the abuse with the hope that doing so would end the harassment. This is a textbook reaction of victims of bullying. Despite these efforts, the taunting continued.
“Beyond the well-publicized voicemail with its racial epithet, Jonathan endured a malicious physical attack on him by a teammate, and daily vulgar comments...These facts are not in dispute.”
Police documents also surfaced Friday morning alleging that Incognito displayed “inappropriate behavior” toward a female volunteer at a Dolphins golf tournament a year and a half ago. The woman claimed Incognito “proceeded to lean up against her buttocks with his private parts as if dancing,” according to a police report in Aventura, Fla. Incognito was not arrested or charged in the incident.
Martin’s claim of a physical attack by Incognito comes on the heels of a report by NBC Sports that Dolphins general manager Jeff Ireland advised Martin to confront the alleged bullying by physically fighting back.
“Dolphins general manager Jeff Ireland told Martin’s agent that he should physically confront Richie Incognito, and Ireland specifically said that Martin should punch Incognito in order to solve this problem,’’ NBC’s Mike Florio of ProFootballTalk.com told TODAY.
Dolphins head coach Joe Philbin declined to comment on the dynamic between Incognito and Martin at a news conference Wednesday, but said, "the type of culture I have championed since the day I walked through these doors (is one of) honesty, accountability and respect. I believe in the men in our locker room and our coaching staff. I have full faith and confidence that we will stick together as a team and that we will focus on the task at hand, which is preparing for our Monday night game against Tampa Bay."
Many of Incognito’s teammates have come to his defense.
“Everybody’s bashing him,’’ Dolphins offensive lineman Bryant McKinnie told reporters. “That’s why people feel the need to stand up for him.”
“There’s a lot more questions about Richie, so there’s a lot more answers and a lot more support for Richie,’’ Dolphins tight end Kyle Miller told reporters.
Dungy believes preventing this type of behavior in the locker room has to begin at the top.
“You have to have respect for your fellow players,’’ Dungy said. “It has to start in the management. It has to start with the coaches and the general manager creating an atmosphere of a safe environment, and then the players have to carry it on from there.
“I’m not sure what happens in the Dolphins locker room, but what you have to have is the head coach and general manager setting the tone, setting the agenda, and then the player leadership has to make sure that’s carried out.”
Former Dolphins offensive lineman Lydon Murtha, who played with both men and went to college with Incognito, described Martin as "standoffish" and "shy,'' saying he would not look other players in the eye, in a first-person story for Sports Illustrated.
Jonathan Martin's "toughness," his attorney wrote in the statement, "is not at issue."
“A football locker room, (and) any workplace has to be a place where no matter how you are as a person, no matter what your personality is, that is respected,’’ Dungy said. “Everybody is not the same in a locker room. You’re not going to get 53 people that all fit in the same way. I think good teams and strong organizations promote that type of environment where you don’t have to be like everyone else to flourish.”
Dungy believes bullying is a larger sports cultural problem.
“Somewhere along the line, there was a breakdown in this, but let’s not just point the finger at football,’’ he said. “This happens everywhere. The Florida A&M band had a hazing incident where the drum major was actually killed, so it’s not just football. It happens everywhere, and it’s something that our society has to look at.”