DAVIE, Fla. — Richie Incognito’s stall inside the Miami Dolphins locker room was loaded with packages, papers and plenty of football equipment Monday.
Miami Dolphins guard Richie Incognito (68) during the second half of an NFL football game against the Cincinnati Bengals, Thursday, Oct. 31, 2013, in Miami Gardens, Fla. (AP Photo/Wilfredo Lee)
The sign was gone, though.
“There are two things Richie Incognito does not like,” read a small sign that until very recently adorned the front of the now-suspended Miami offensive lineman’s locker. On one line in small orange letters, the first entry on that list was “Taxes.” The second line, in larger black type, was “Rookies.”
“He’s a funny guy,” Dolphins cornerback Will Davis said Monday. “Everybody loves him.”
Maybe, maybe not. There’s not much to laugh about in the Dolphins’ locker room these days, not with offensive lineman Jonathan Martin having left the club to handle emotional issues. And Incognito, his alleged tormentor, since banished from the team in yet another entry on a long list of troubling events marring his playing career.
“None of it shocks me,” said New York Giants kicker Josh Brown, who played with Incognito in college at Nebraska and then with the St. Louis Rams. “I don’t know any of the details obviously. The league hasn’t released anything. Richie is ... this seems to be a person with a tortured soul.”
Two people have told The Associated Press that Incognito sent Martin text messages that were racist and threatening. The Dolphins suspended Incognito on Sunday night for conduct detrimental to the team, and neither he nor Martin was with the team Monday.
Agents for the two players didn’t respond to requests for comment. Martin is with his family in Los Angeles for counseling.
The entire culture of the Dolphins’ locker room is now being scrutinized, including whether racism and bullying was not only going on, but either unnoticed or permitted.
“I love Richie. I think he’s a great guy,” Dolphins wide receiver Mike Wallace said. “He’s an intense guy. Everybody knows that. I think he was just being Richie. I love playing with Richie. I wish he was here right now.”
Incognito’s checkered past is well-chronicled.
He was charged with assault, caught spitting on an opponent, kicked out of a game and reportedly restrained by teammates while trying to fight another — and that was just at Nebraska, which eventually kicked him off the team. He then tried to play at Oregon, and never even made it onto the practice field for the Ducks before getting banished again.
And in the NFL, he’s been basically called one thing: a dirty player.
“That dude,” NFL veteran Vonnie Holliday said in 2010, “has like a screw loose.”
Added Arizona defensive tackle Darnell Dockett:
“That’s just what he does. That’s his whole makeup is to play dirty and hurt guys. Everybody knows that. I just don’t understand how he got away with it for so long. I think the NFL really needs to buckle down on it now, because it’s bigger than trying to hurt other guys, you’re trying to hurt guys on your team, mentally. Which sometimes can actually be worse than hurting someone physically.”
Getting fined $50,000 for head-butting two opponents in 2009 prompted his departure from St. Louis. He was in Buffalo briefly, acknowledging that his reputation as “a less than model citizen” was deserved. And then he came to the Dolphins, where teammates eventually voted him onto the squad’s leadership council.
“I quite frankly did play dirty,” Incognito said in 2012, referring to his early NFL days. “And I would go after guys.”
He was talking about opponents. This time, he’s allegedly gone after a teammate.
Martin left the team last Monday after an incident in the dining room, which has been portrayed as a simple prank. Martin met with Dolphins coach Joe Philbin that night to discuss the matter, and hasn’t been with the team since.
The situation spiraled out of control Sunday, with Incognito posting several tweets lashing out at media reports and saying he wanted his name cleared. The Dolphins said they had no accusations from anyone to suggest misconduct had taken place. Not long afterward, one of Martin’s representatives reached out, and the team — which asked the NFL to probe the workplace culture as well — suspended Incognito.
“I don’t look at him as being racist or anything like that,” newly acquired Dolphins offensive lineman Bryant McKinnie said. “It could have been in a joking manner. I don’t know how it was delivered or received. ... When I got here he was a guy who had everybody laughing and told jokes. I didn’t really see the side being portrayed right now.”
It’s now unclear if any side of Incognito will be seen in the NFL again. And on Monday, Brown couldn’t help but think of the signs of trouble he witnessed as a teammate of Incognito’s long ago.
“Signs of depression, things like that,” Brown said. “Again, somebody has something going on in their head they can’t get past and it’s unfortunate. At this point it may cost him his career for sure.”
AP Sports Writers Steven Wine in Davie, Fla., Eric Olson in Lincoln, Neb. and Tom Canavan in East Rutherford, N.J. contributed to this story.