Richie Incognito deflects blame

Updated: November 11, 2013, 8:39 AM ET
By James Walker | ESPN.com

Richie Incognito spoke in-depth for the first time since his indefinite suspension, describing the Miami Dolphins' locker-room environment as a place where threats and racial slurs were considered acceptable and jovial behavior.

Incognito deflected blame for many of his harsh actions against teammate Jonathan Martin during an interview with Fox Sports.

Incognito also accused Martin of using equally crass language, claiming that was the nature of their relationship.

"When words are put in a context, I understand why a lot of eyebrows get raised," Incognito told Fox Sports during the interview, which aired Sunday. "But people don't know how Jon and I communicate to one another. For instance, a week before this went down, Jonathan Martin texted me on my phone, 'I will murder your whole f------ family.'

"Now, do I think Jonathan Martin was going to murder my family? Not one bit. He texted me that. I didn't think he was going to kill my family. I knew that was coming from a brother. I knew it was coming from a friend. I knew it was coming from a teammate."

Martin's lawyer, David Cornwell, responded to Incognito's claim via Twitter on Sunday. The tweet said "Jmart's text 2 Richie Incognito. U decide" followed by an image of a woman holding a dog from a comedy website with the words embedded in the picture, "I will murder your whole f------ family."

Incognito, meanwhile, staunchly denied bullying Martin and claimed to be Martin's most supportive teammate. Incognito said he was genuinely surprised that Martin left the team and it became a national media firestorm.

"You can ask anybody in the Miami Dolphins' locker room who had Jon Martin's back the absolute most, and they will undoubtedly tell you [it was me]," Incognito said. "Jon never showed signs that football was getting to him [or] the locker room was getting to him."

Incognito confirmed that he did leave the controversial voice mail message to Martin last April that included a racial slur and a threat to kill Martin.

Despite the scathing language, Incognito said his actions "came from a place of love" and that vulgar communication was normal among Dolphins players.

"I'm not a racist, and to judge me by that one word is wrong," Incognito said. "In no way, shape or form is it ever acceptable for me to use that word, even if it's friend-to-friend on a voice mail."

In a transcript of the voice mail message from April, Incognito referred to Martin as a "half n----- piece of s---," and added, "F--- you, you're still a rookie. I'll kill you."

"It's thrown around a lot," Incognito told Fox Sports. "It's a word that I've heard Jon use a lot. It's not saying it's right that I did it and used it in a voice mail. But it's a lot of colorful words that are being thrown around in a locker room that we don't use in everyday life."

The NFL is investigating the troubled relationship between Incognito and Martin, who left the Dolphins two weeks ago because of emotional issues stemming from alleged harassment and misconduct.

"All this stuff coming out, it speaks to the culture of our locker room, it speaks to culture of our closeness, it speaks to the culture of our brotherhood," Incognito said. "And the racism, the bad words, that's what I regret most. But that is a product of the environment."

Martin left the Dolphins on Oct. 28 following an incident in the team's lunchroom. However, Incognito said Sunday that he and Martin exchanged text messages four days later.

Incognito's phone showed 1,142 text messages between the two players over the past year, Fox Sports reported.

"[Martin] texted me and said, 'I don't blame you guys, I blame some stuff in the locker room, I blame the culture, I blame what was going on around me,' " Incognito said. "And when all this stuff got going and swirling and bullying got attached to it and my name got attached to it, I just texted him as a friend and was like, 'What's up with this man?' And he said, 'It's not coming from me. I haven't said anything to anybody.' "

Martin recently hired Cornwell, who released a statement last week claiming that Martin was the victim of constant harassment from various teammates, including a "malicious physical attack" and a threat on Martin's sister.

Several Dolphins veterans denied having a violent locker room on Saturday.

Dolphins offensive lineman Mike Pouncey told ESPN's "Monday Night Football" crew that he thought Incognito's Sunday interview was "fantastic."

"It was absolutely true," Pouncey said. "[Incognito] was very sincere about a lot of things. He admitted when he was wrong and let the whole world know his side of the story."

Pouncey also said that he has been in contact with Incognito during the past week, but not Martin.

"I've kind of let Jonathan get through what he is going through right now," Pouncey said. "I have been very supportive of both sides. I just hope both those guys get it right. It has been very tough, especially for Richie with all the stuff he has been going through. I love that kid to death. I just think it is wrong all this stuff he is going through right now."

Incognito has a long history for questionable behavior. The NFL talked to Incognito in 2012 for two incidents, one of which included allegations of molestation of a female volunteer at a Dolphins charity golf tournament, sources told ESPN.

Dolphins coach Joe Philbin said Saturday the team was aware of the 2012 incident and "took immediate action," declining to reveal specifics. Following the incident, Incognito started all 16 games in 2012 and was voted on the team's leadership counsel before the 2013 season.

The Dolphins (4-4) will play the winless Tampa Bay Buccaneers (0-8) this week on ESPN's "Monday Night Football."

Information from The Associated Press contributed to this report.

James Walker | email

ESPN Miami Dolphins reporter

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