x Abu Dhabi, UAESunday 23 July 2017

Things go from bad to worse for Miami Dolphins

As the cloud over the scandal involving offensive linemen Richie Incognito and Jonathan Martin continued to hang over the team, they suffered an embarrassing 22-19 loss to previously 0-8 Tampa Bay on Monday night.

Richie Incognito, left, and his racially-charged verbal harassment of teammate Jonathan Martin, right, have resulted in a scandal engulfing the Miami Dolphins. Bill Feig / AP
Richie Incognito, left, and his racially-charged verbal harassment of teammate Jonathan Martin, right, have resulted in a scandal engulfing the Miami Dolphins. Bill Feig / AP

Agencies

Miami Dolphins owner Stephen Ross said on Monday he had arranged a meeting for Wednesday with Jonathan Martin, the player who left the team saying he was emotionally distraught over being bullied by teammates.

Ross said he was “appalled” by some of the revelations in the case that has captured widespread public attention over the so-called clubhouse culture on the Dolphins and other National Football League teams.

Fellow lineman Richie Incognito, who was singled out by Martin, has already been suspended indefinitely by the National Football League team for a series of racist remarks and threats against Martin, who left the team a week ago, and the NFL has announced an independent investigation into the matter.

“I’d like to hear from him (Martin) about what happened and what made him feel that way,” Ross told a news conference in Tampa before Monday night’s game between the Dolphins and the Tampa Bay Buccaneers in his first public comments on the case.

“And what we could have done to prevent this from happening.”

In Monday night’s game, the Dolphins lost to the previously winless Buccaneers 22-19.

The Dolphins have been struggling for the past week over the scandal, and now Miami can add to that the disgrace of allowing the last winless team in the NFL to end that status and reach 1-8 while the Dolphins fell to 4-5, one game behind the New York Jets for the last American Conference play-off spot.

“It’s frustrating we did not play as well as we wanted. I cannot put it on the distraction. I thought we played pretty well in practice the last few days,” Miami quarterback Ryan Tannehill said of the scandal.

The bullying story dominated news around the Dolphins’ workouts before the first game since the scandal broke. But Tannehill would not blame the distraction nor the loss of the two blockers.

“They were two starters but the guys who played those spots stepped up and replaced them and played pretty well,” Tannehill said.

Tannehill completed 27 of 42 passes for 229 yards and two touchdowns with one interception. But the Dolphins managed only two yards rushing, a record one-game low in team history.

Ross said before the game he had utmost confidence in his staff, including coach Joe Philbin, but said that if the independent probe found there needed to be changes, “then there will be changes.”

Martin, a second-round draft pick in 2012 who started all 16 games last year and the first seven games this season, left the team at the end of October suffering from emotional distress and representatives of his later informed the club of the alleged bullying and abuse by teammates.

Thousands of dollars were demanded to pay for dinners and a Las Vegas outing organised by veteran players, according to claims made by Martin’s representatives that also included other forms of verbal abuse.

A text message sent from Incognito to Martin, laced with racial epithets and violent threats, that was published particularly disgusted the team owner.

“I was appalled, I think anybody would be appalled, when you first read that text that was reported,” Ross said. “I didn’t realise people speak that way to people.

“We have to hear all the facts in this story,” added Ross. “There’s so many different things that are being said. I’m going to meet with Jonathan Martin face to face and hear what he has to say.”

Ross said he also planned to meet with Incognito. “He deserves to be heard,” the owner said.

Incognito has apologised for his insensitive remarks but added he was shocked at Martin’s reaction.

“People don’t know how Jon and I communicate with each other,” Incognito told Fox Sports on Sunday. “I’ve taken stuff too far. I did not intend to hurt him.”

Ross said he had established a committee to advise him on proper clubhouse conduct comprised of former NFL coaches Tony Dungy and Don Shula, and former players Dan Marino, Jason Taylor and Curtis Martin.

“These are people that have as much respect as anybody to play or coach the game,” said Ross. “They can give me advice on a personal code of conduct for the locker room.

“I think in any locker room, any workplace, every voice needs to be heard. Obviously, there was a voice that we were not hearing.”