Punished for his role in Jonathan Martin's exodus from Miami, Incognito was defended by many current Dolphins, who painted the guard as a fine teammate -- and a good friend to Martin.
One former Dolphin, retired offensive tackle Lydon Murtha, stepped forward to, in his words, "correct some of the misconceptions and outright lies being reported."
In a revealing column published Thursday on TheMMQB.com, Murtha -- Incognito's former teammate at Nebraska and a member of the 'Fins during the 2012 preseason -- described Martin, then a rookie, as an outsider.
"From the beginning, when he was drafted in April 2012, Martin did not seem to want to be one of the group," Murtha wrote. "He came off as standoffish and shy to the rest of the offensive linemen. He couldn't look anyone in the eye, which was puzzling for a football player at this level on a team full of grown-ass men. We all asked the same question: Why won't he be open with us? What's with the wall being put up? I never really figured it out."
Off the field, Murtha described Martin as the first player in his experience to balk at the concept of paying for a rookie dinner, a longtime tradition in NFL circles. On the field, Murtha saw Incognito take Martin "under his wing," guiding a timid first-year player through his earliest steps in the NFL.
"Martin had a tendency to tank when things would get difficult in practice, and Incognito would lift him up," Murtha wrote. "He'd say, there's always tomorrow. Richie has been more kind to Martin than any other player."
That's why the whole fiasco came as a surprise to Murtha.
"I don't believe Richie Incognito bullied Jonathan Martin," he wrote. "I never saw Martin singled out, excluded from anything, or treated any differently than the rest of us. We'd have dinners and the occasional night out, and everyone was invited. He was never told he can't be a part of this. It was the exact opposite. But when he came out, he was very standoffish. That's why the coaches told the leaders, bring him out of his shell. Figure him out a little bit."
The Dolphins say they knew nothing about hazing inside team circles, but Murtha called that an "outlandish lie."
"The coaches know everything," he wrote. "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. I have friends on more than a dozen teams, and it's the same everywhere. What people want to call bullying is something that is never going away from football."
More from Murtha:
*On the Incognito voice mail: *"He was the jokester on the team, and he joked with everybody from players to coaches. That voice mail he sent came from a place of humor, but where he really screwed up was using the N-word. That, I cannot condone, and it's probably the biggest reason he's not with the team right now. Odd thing is, I've heard Incognito call Martin the same thing to his face in meetings and all Martin did was laugh."
On the Vegas trip: "In my experience, (Incognito's) not the kind of person who would extort someone for $15,000. The notion that Martin was forced to pay for a trip he didn't attend has been misrepresented. Every year, as tradition, the offensive line goes on a big Vegas trip. Everything is paid for in advance, from hotels to a private jet to show tickets. Martin originally verbally committed to the trip, then later backed out after everything was booked. Now, if you can't go because of an emergency then it's okay, but to say you're going and then decide you don't want to spend the money later? ... You don't do that to your brothers."
On the cafeteria incident, which Murtha called the "silliest part of this story" to date: Whoever leaked that story failed to share that getting up from a packed lunch table when one lineman sits down is a running gag that has been around for years. It happened to me more than once, and it happened to Martin because guys on the team say he was overcoming an illness. Just like when a guy is hurt, the joke is, I don't want to sit with you, you've got the bug.
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