The Miami Dolphins have suspended Pro Bowler Richie Incognito after allegations of misconduct lodged by linemate Jonathan Martin, who left the NFL team last week in the middle of the season.
Dolphins head coach Joe Philbin told reporters Monday he made the decision the previous night to suspend Incognito "based on the information that I had at that time." He didn't give a reason for the move.
ESPN, NFL.com and other media outlets reported that representatives for Martin submitted voicemails containing racial slurs and threats of physical violence to the league and the Dolphins. One of the messages, from April, contained a reference to Martin's biracial background, according to ESPN's sources.
"Hey, wassup, you half (expletive) piece of (expletive). "I saw you on Twitter, you been training 10 weeks. I'll (expletive) in your (expletive) mouth. I'm gonna slap your (expletive) mouth, I'm gonna slap your real mother across the face (laughter). (Expletive) you, you're still a rookie. I'll kill you."
The team said Sunday in a statement that Incognito, a nine-year veteran at offensive guard, was suspended for detrimental conduct.
"We believe in maintaining a culture of respect for one another and as a result we believe this decision is in the best interest of the organization at this time," the team said in a statement on its website.
The Miami Herald reported that a Dolphins official said Incognito is "done" with the team. A Dolphins spokesman had no comment.
Cafeteria incident sparked departure
Last week, the Dolphins announced Martin had taken "a leave of absence."
Philbin said Martin left the team after an incident at the team's cafeteria. Jay Glazer, an NFL analyst for FoxSports.com, reported that some of his teammates got up from a lunch table as a joke when Martin sat down. The lineman threw his food tray hard to the ground, he reported. Glazer later tweeted the incident was a final straw for Martin.
The coach said representatives for Martin contacted the team Sunday with their concerns. The Dolphins spent Sunday gathering information, after which he suspended Incognito, Philbin said.
Several media outlets said Martin had left the Dolphins because of bullying, something Incognito denied on Twitter.
"Shame on you for attaching my name to false speculation," one of the tweets said, according to Bleacher Report. That tweet and others addressed to various media outlets were deleted later.
A post from Sunday remained a day later: "Three things cannot be long hidden: the sun, the moon, and the truth -- Buddha."
Philbin said he met with Martin and also talked with members of his family before Sunday, and the second-year player didn't say anything about player misconduct.
CNN reached out multiple times to representatives for each player but hasn't received comment.
'Teddy bear off the field'
Chris Draft played with Incognito when both were with the St. Louis Rams in 2007 and 2008. Incognito's onfield aggressive persona was nothing like his personality away from the playing field, Draft said.
"He was really kind of a big teddy bear off the field. My wife actually loved him," he told CNN.
The Sporting News takes a yearly poll of NFL players, and in 2009 they dubbed Incognito the dirtiest player in the league.
The Rams released Incognito in December 2009 after an argument during a game with then-head coach Steve Spagnuolo. He played with the Buffalo Bills for three games before joining the Dolphins.
Incognito, who played in the Pro Bowl all-star game in January, appeared to have calmed down on the field, according to a profile on NFL.com. Incognito pointed to meditation as a positive tool he used.
The NFL will review the case, league spokesman Greg Aiello said Monday.
"I will tell you that if the review shows that this is not a safe atmosphere I will take whatever measures are necessary to assure that it is," Philbin said. "I have that obligation to the players that I coach on a daily basis."
The NFL Players Association has said the union has not started an investigation.
NFL's pecking order
Rookie Will Davis said he hasn't experienced any acts of bullying or hazing.
"I think a lot of people think of hazing as being cruel, but I don't see anything like that in this locker room," he said. "But it depends on how you take hazing. I've always thought the guys in here were great."
He said everyone on the team loves Incognito.
"I was shocked," he said.
Wide receiver Mike Wallace said there was a lot of respect for both players.
"I know both of those guys personally," he said. "I feel like they are both good guys."
Former Dolphins linebacker Channing Crowder told "Piers Morgan Live" that a locker room is often a place where players are trying to establish a pecking order.
People cannot compare it to working at a regular job, he said, because we are talking about physically aggressive men with big egos competing and trying to prove their manhood.
NFL players are "a bunch of testosterone-filled alpha males who are trying to find their place on the totem pole," he told CNN.
He said when Incognito joined the team, he would test people to see where he stood with them.
"He is a guy that needs to know his place with you," Crowder said.
Incognito also apparently liked to play pranks. In a segment shown on a HBO series that follows one NFL team during each preseason, Incognito figured out a teammate's iPad password. He then teased the player about a status update he made for the player and joked about the player's fiancee.
"Hard Knocks" has given audiences a look inside team dynamics, sometimes giving viewers a glimpse at life for rookies. And inevitably some of the younger players get hazed.
Hazing on the decline?
Still, former Dolphins running back Ricky Williams said it occurs less frequently in the NFL than most people think.
"Really I haven't see much hazing," he said in an interview on "The Lead with Jake Tapper."
He said its a well-known "rite of passage" for a high draft pick to pick up a big dinner bill for some other players on the team.
"Once you sign that contract there's a lot of rules, written and unwritten, that you are expected to follow," he said. "For me, this is something that should be handled internally. I don't think the media, I don't think fans, I don't think anyone outside is really in a position to really fully understand what occurs inside of a locker room and inside of a football team."