Miami Dolphins guard Richie Incognito was the ringleader of three players who "engaged in a pattern of harassment" of teammate Jonathan Martin, another unidentified young offensive lineman and a member of the team's athletic training staff, according to the long-awaited report released by prominent attorney Ted Wells' office Friday morning.
That harassment by Incognito and fellow offensive linemen John Jerry and Mike Pouncey contributed to Martin's departure from the team in October, but those teammates "did not intend to drive Martin from the team or cause him lasting emotional injury," and coach Joe Philbin and the front office were unaware it was happening, the report said.
"As all must surely recognize, the NFL is not an ordinary workplace," the report's conclusion read. "Professional football is a rough, contact sport played by men of exceptional size, speed, strength and athleticism. But even the largest, strongest and fleetest person may be driven to despair by bullying, taunting and constant insults.
"We encourage the creation of new workplace conduct rules and guidelines that will help ensure that players respect each other as professionals and people."
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The Dolphins, the NFL and the players union all released statements saying they planned to review the 144-page report, which culminated a more than three-month investigation and more than 100 interviews by Wells' team.
It was harshest on Incognito – the 30-year-old guard suspended the season's final eight games for conduct detrimental to the club – but also implicated Jerry, Pouncey and offensive line coach Jim Turner, whose statements to investigators were specifically discredited in multiple passages.
"When we asked the NFL to conduct this independent review, we felt it was important to take a step back and thoroughly research these serious allegations," the Dolphins' statement said. "As an organization, we are committed to a culture of team-first accountability and respect for one another."
Incognito's lawyer, Mark Schamel, issued a strongly worded statement Friday afternoon that criticized Wells' conclusions and promising its own counter report.
"Mr. Wells' NFL report is replete with errors," Schamel's statement said. "The facts do not support a conclusion that Jonathan Martin's mental health, drug use, or on field performance issues were related to the treatment by his teammates.
"It is disappointing that Mr. Wells would have gotten it so wrong, but not surprising. The truth, as reported by the Dolphins players and as shown by the evidence, is that Jonathan Martin was never bullied by Richie Incognito or any member of the Dolphins Offensive line. We are analyzing the entire report and will release a thorough analysis as soon as it is ready."
Martin, 24, left the team and checked himself into a mental hospital Oct. 28 after a cafeteria prank that was just part of the harassment he endured that day, the report said. Martin told investigators he endured "racially derogatory language," which "caused him to boil over" when the offensive linemen, at Incognito's urging, got up from the table and walked away as Martin arrived.
Six days later, Martin's representatives turned over evidence of alleged abuse to the Dolphins, who suspended Incognito that night and asked Commissioner Roger Goodell for help with the issue.
On Nov. 6, the league hired Wells to lead an "independent" investigation in which he interviewed every Dolphins player, the entire coaching staff, key front office personnel, former Dolphins, some of Martin's teammates and coaches at Stanford, Martin's parents and Martin's agent. He also collected text messages, emails and scouting, medical and security files.
The report acknowledged Martin should have reported the harassment, which was unknown to Philbin and the Dolphins front office despite its apparently pervasive nature. Incognito not only was on the team's leadership council, he was widely supported in the locker room even after his departure and details of his treatment of Martin became public.
"Moreover, however offensive much of the conduct discussed in this Report may have been," the report said, "it appears that the Dolphins' rules of workplace behavior were not fully appreciated and, with respect to at least some of their actions, Incognito and his teammates may not have been clearly notified that they were crossing lines that would be enforced by the team with serious sanctions.
"In fact, many of the issues raised by this investigation appear to be unprecedented. We are unaware of any analogous situation in which anti-harassment policies have been applied to police how NFL teammates communicate and interact with each other."
After issuing Twitter messages in support on Martin as recently as last week, Incognito sent a series of tweets Wednesday saying his "best friend" had betrayed him and the truth would "bury" Martin and his camp.
The report said investigators "struggled with how to evaluate Martin's claims of harassment given his mental health issues, his possible heightened sensitivity to insults and his unusual, 'bipolar' friendship with Incognito.
"Nonetheless, we ultimately concluded that Martin was indeed harassed by Incognito, who can fairly be described as the main instigator, and by Jerry and Pouncey, who tended to follow Incognito's lead."
After Martin left the team, "Incognito made a number of telling entries in a notebook used to keep track of 'fines' the offensive linemen imposed on each other in their 'kangaroo court' (typically for trivial infractions such as arriving late to meetings)," the report read.
"Incognito recorded a $200 fine against himself for 'breaking Jmart,' awarded another lineman who had been verbally taunted a $250 bonus for 'not cracking first,' and wrote down a number of penalties against Martin for acting like" an offensive word.
On Nov. 3, the report said, Incognito wrote nearly identical text messages to Pouncey and another offensive lineman: "They're going to suspend me Please destroy the fine book first thing in the morning" – demonstrating an awareness, in the investigators' opinion, that he had engaged in improper conduct.
Incognito can become a free agent March 11. Martin remains under contract for two more seasons, though it seems unlikely he'll play for the Dolphins again.
"Martin has expressed a desire to continue his NFL career, and we hope that he will have the opportunity to do so," the report said. "His brief experience in the league was derailed by harassment from his teammates, and it would be unfortunate if he did not get the chance to resume playing in an environment that will permit him to reach his full potential as a professional athlete."
In addition to Martin, the report detailed harassment of the Assistant Trainer, who is Japanese and "repeatedly was targeted with racial slurs and other racially derogatory language," as well as Player A, who "frequently as subjected to homophobic name-calling and improper physical touching."
Martin told investigators head athletic trainer Kevin O'Neill heard and sometimes laughed at the remarks made towards the Assistant Trainer and once pulled Martin aside to tell him to stand up for himself more. The former accusation wasn't addressed by O'Neill – his interview "was cut short because O'Neill expressed hostility toward our investigation."
The report said Turner participated in the running joke about Player A, giving the player a male "blow-up" doll as part of a Christmas stocking. It also discredited Turner's denial of knowing about the "Judas" code Martin blamed for not coming forward sooner, even though former assistant offensive line coach Chris Mosley claimed Turner introduced the concept.
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"There is no question that the better course of action would have been for Martin to report the abuse," the report said. "We also agree with the view, expressed by many of Martin's teammates, that it would have been preferable for Martin's grievances to be handled inside the Dolphins organization rather than played out in the national news media."
The report didn't entirely back up the accusations made publicly by Martin's representatives and attorney David Cornwell, who alleged his client "endured a malicious physical attack" at a Christmas party at Pouncey's house in 2012.
Investigators determined that claim was "exaggerated" but also credited Martin's statements "that he found the episode humiliating and viewed Incognito's conduct as consistent with his pattern of demeaning Martin in front of other players."
Among other things, the report chronicles Martin's descent into depression – including twice contemplating suicide in 2013 – and said one complicating factor was that he may have been more sensitive to insults.
Martin told the investigators he was bullied in middle and high school, "which diminished his self-confidence and self-esteem and contributed to what he self-diagnosed as periodic bouts of depression during his teenage years."
The NFL said in a statement the league appreciated "the work of Ted Wells and his colleagues and the cooperation of the Miami Dolphins organization in the investigation. After we have had an opportunity to review the report, we will have further comment as appropriate."
The union statement read: "We have received the report on workplace conditions in Miami. We will review the findings closely (and) confer with our players and all relevant parties involved."
Incognito cut a deal Nov. 21 to delay an expedited hearing for his grievance against the team and extend his suspension two weeks beyond the maximum allowed by the collective-bargaining agreement in exchange for reducing his financial loss to two game checks worth $470,588. A subsequent deal extended Incognito's suspension for the rest of the season.
The Dolphins officially ended Martin's season Nov. 30 by placing him on the non-football injury illness list but continued paying his weekly salary of $35,733. He has non-guaranteed base salaries of $824,933 in 2014 and $1,042,400 in 2015.
The Dolphins won five of their next seven games after Martin left the team, only to drop their last two to AFC East rivals Buffalo and the New York Jets and miss the playoffs for a fifth straight year. The team fired offensive coordinator Mike Sherman on Jan. 6 and general manager Jeff Ireland the next day, but Philbin kept his job.
Even before the Martin/Incognito saga began, the Dolphins needed offensive line help. In addition to Incognito, their starting tackles at the end of the season, Tyson Clabo and Bryant McKinnie, and Jerry can become unrestricted free agents next month.