Suspended Miami Dolphins offensive lineman Richie Incognito has given his first full-length interview since allegations that he bullied teammate Jonathan Martin surfaced last week, saying that he once received a text from Martin that read "I will murder your whole... family."
“People don’t know how Jon and I communicate with each other,” Incognito told Jay Glazer of Fox Sports, who conducted the interview, portions of which aired on the network’s “Fox NFL Sunday" football pregame show.
Incognito recalled that he got the text from Martin a week before the bullying allegations were made, but never thought of it as a serious threat considering the way they interact with each other.
"I knew it was coming from a brother. I knew it was coming from a friend. I knew it was coming from a teammate. That just puts into context how we communicate with one another," Incognito said.
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Incognito was suspended by the Dolphins late last Sunday for conduct detrimental to the team. Martin left the Dolphins on Oct. 28 and claimed that he had been the victim of harassment and bullying by Incognito. Among the evidence that surfaced was a voicemail in which Incognito called the biracial Martin a "half-[n-word]" and vowed to slap Martin's mother. During the Fox interview, Incognito admitted to leaving that voicemail.
“When I see that voicemail, when I see those words come up across the screen, I’m embarrassed by it," Incognito told Fox. “I’m not a racist. And to judge me by that one word is wrong. 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 voicemail."
"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. The racism, the bad words, that's what I regret most, but that's a product of the environment. That's something that we use all the time."
Martin is scheduled to discuss the case late next week with a special investigator hired by the NFL.
Neither Martin's agent nor attorney responded to requests for comment from The Associated Press.
But Incognito said Martin sent him a friendly text four days after leaving the team to undergo counseling for emotional issues. The message came on the heels of the Dolphins' overtime victory against Cincinnati.
"Wassup man? The world's gone crazy lol. I'm good tho congrats on the win," Martin said in a text verified by Fox Sports. "Yeah I'm good man. It's insane bro but just know I don't blame you guys at all. It's just the culture around football and the locker room got to me a little."
The case has rocked the Dolphins franchise and sparked a nationwide debate on the culture of football locker rooms.
Incognito has long been known for out-of-bounds behavior, having acquired a reputation as one of the dirtiest players in the NFL. This week, however, another off-field incident came to light. A police report from May 2012 said a female volunteer at a Dolphins charity golf tournament complained that Incognito harassed her.
"We were made aware of the incident and we took immediate action," coach Joe Philbin said. "That's all I'm going to say. ... Any club action we would take against any player would be kept private."
Philbin declined to say why he subsequently allowed Incognito to become a member of the player leadership council.
Media interest remained high Saturday, with some 75 reporters and cameramen descending on the team complex. Half a dozen TV vans camped out across the street from the entrance, monitoring comings and goings.
"I'm not going to give you nothing," offensive lineman Nate Garner told a throng of reporters in a genial tone.
"I'm only talking about football," center Mike Pouncey said.
"We have a game on Monday," defensive end Cameron Wake added. "I'm not thinking about anybody that's not in this locker room, and that's the truth."
That leaves Miami (4-4) short-handed for Monday night's game at Tampa Bay (0-8), but blocking and tackling will offer a brief respite from the relentless revelations in the bullying scandal.
"The pressure this has created from a media standpoint can really cause some problems," tackle Tyson Clabo said. "But as far as the guys in this locker room, we all pretty much see this thing through the same set of eyes. We're ready to go and try to change the narrative here to get back to football."
Players stretched at the start of practice to the sounds of "Me Against the World" by Tupac, a song chosen for the occasion by the players. "Stuck in the game," Tupac rapped. "No one in the world loves me. ... So no matter how hard it get, stick your chest out. Keep your head up and handle it."
The Dolphins haven't played since Oct. 31, when they beat Cincinnati on an overtime safety in prime time just as the scandal was beginning to build. That victory was quickly forgotten.
"We don't hear anything about winning last week on a safety," cornerback Brent Grimes said with a laugh. "We just went right into this. The situation stinks."
In a locker room that was already showing signs of dissension, the situation's potentially divisive.
"It can be," defensive tackle Randy Starks said. "But right now we're sticking together."
"We're a band of brothers," Pouncey said. "We're here for one thing, and that's to play football and to win football games, and that has been our main focus since all of this has gone down."
Players have been more vocal in their support of Incognito than Martin, but Clabo said there's plenty of sympathy for both. It's uncertain whether either will play again in the NFL.
"Those guys are going through a lot right now," Clabo said. "I feel for both of them and the situation they're in. It can't be easy for either one of them. It's not fun."
The Associated Press contributed to this report.