DAVIE, Fla. -- A leadership vacuum may have contributed to the troubled relationship between Miami Dolphins offensive linemen Jonathan Martin and Richie Incognito, which has left both players sidelined and the team in turmoil.
The ongoing saga has raised questions about whether coach Joe Philbin and his staff were negligent in allowing issues between Martin and Incognito to fester. Current and ex-players around the NFL say the situation reflects a lack of leadership because teammates of Martin and Incognito didn't intervene.
NFL officials are trying to determine who knew what when, and whether Incognito harassed or bullied Martin. A second-year tackle from Stanford, Martin left the team last week and is with his family in California to undergo counseling for emotional issues. Incognito has been suspended indefinitely.
A senior partner in a New York law firm with experience in sports cases was appointed Wednesday by NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell to investigate possible misconduct in the Dolphins' workplace and prepare a report that will be made public.
"If the review reveals anything that needs to be corrected, we will take all necessary measures to fix it," Philbin said. "I believe in our players, I believe in our staff, I believe in our organization, the people around here. I know why I got into coaching, and I believe in the things that I've done."
In 2012 the team's player leadership council included Reggie Bush, Karlos Dansby and Jake Long, all of whom left after last season. Their replacements were second-year quarterback Ryan Tannehill, newcomer Dannell Ellerbe -- and Incognito.
Incognito's harassment of Martin included text messages that were racist and threatening, two people familiar with the situation have told The Associated Press. The people spoke to the AP on condition of anonymity because the Dolphins and NFL haven't disclosed the nature of the misconduct that led to Incognito's suspension.
New York attorney Ted Wells was chosen by the NFL to investigate. He has conducted special investigations into the Syracuse basketball sexual harassment case, and the NBA players union leadership dispute. In the latter case, his report led to a change in the head of the union.
"He is on the job as of today and will undertake to complete his work as promptly as possible," Goodell said in a statement. "Consistent with doing a thorough investigation, we have not imposed a specific timetable on him."
Dolphins owner Stephen Ross, commenting publicly on the case for the first time, applauded the appointment of Wells.
"He has an impeccable reputation, and we look forward to fully cooperating with the review," Ross said in a statement. "We take this situation seriously."
Copyright 2013 by The Associated Press