MIAMI (AP/WJLA) - Miami Dolphins lineman Richie Incognito has a reputation for being a tough guy on the field, but it is his behavior in the team’s locker room that has landed him in hot water.
The Dolphins suspended Incognito on Sunday for allegedly harassing and bullying teammate Jonathan Martin over two seasons. Martin abruptly left the team a week ago to receive help for emotional issues.
"We believe in maintaining a culture of respect for one another," the Dolphins said in a statement released shortly before midnight, "and as a result we believe this decision is in the best interest of the organization at this time. ... We will continue to work with the league on this matter."
The move capped a bizarre day for the Dolphins, even though their players were off. First the team released a statement saying Martin had not complained to the organization about bullying by other players. Hours later, the Dolphins said they and the NFL were investigating allegations of misconduct made Sunday by representatives of Martin.
Sources say the team was given the transcripts of texts and a voice message Incognito reportedly sent to Martin. In it, Incognito reportedly uses expletives and racial slurs toward Martin and ends by saying: "I am going to slap your real mother across the face. F--- you, you’re still a rookie. I will kill you."
People we talked with were stunned to hear about such extreme bullying happening in the NFL.
"It speaks volumes to where we are as a country, as to how we speak to people, and it doesn't set a good example for our children," said Leah Anderson.
When news of the allegations leaked to the press, Incognito took to Twitter, denying everything and stating: “I want my name cleared. Enough is enough.”
But the Dolphins suspended Incognito indefinitely for what they call “conduct detrimental to the team.”
Martin's agent, Kenneth Zuckerman, declined to comment Sunday. The Dolphins resume practice Monday after three days off.
Martin left the team on the heels of a four-game losing streak. The resulting rumblings of locker-room dissension included reports of complaints by young players that they're being pressured to pay more than their share when members of the team go out on the town or vacation together.
Florida sources say last summer, Incognito pressured Martin to put up $15,000 to send a group of players on a pleasure trip to Las Vegas.
Some rookie hazing has long been part of the NFL, however.
"Everything tastes better when rookies pay for it," veteran Miami defensive lineman Jared Odrick tweeted Friday.
The Dolphins (4-4), who beat Cincinnati on Thursday, next play at Tampa Bay on Nov. 11.
Incognito, a ninth-year pro, earned a reputation as one of the NFL's dirtiest players when he was with the St. Louis Rams. But he has won frequent praise for his leadership since joining the Dolphins in 2010, and this year he was voted by teammates to serve as a member of the Dolphins' player council.
The Dolphins have attributed Martin's absence to an illness not tied to football. On Sunday they said the team, "including coach Joe Philbin and Jonathan's teammates, have been in communication with Jonathan and his family since his departure from the club, and continue to be in contact. Our primary concern for Jonathan is his overall health and well-being."
Martin, a second-year pro from Stanford, played in Miami's loss at New England on Oct. 27 and was at the Dolphins' complex the next day before leaving the team. He missed the victory over Cincinnati.
Incognito's suspension creates further turmoil for an offensive line that has struggled all season. Quarterback Ryan Tannehill is on a franchise-record pace with 32 sacks.