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To the accompaniment of circus-like music, turmoil surrounding the Miami Dolphins escalated Wednesday as players rose to the locker room defense of teammate Richie Incognito and questioned the motives of his alleged harassment victim, fellow offensive lineman Jonathan Martin.
Martin, a second-year offensive tackle from Stanford, left the team last week amid allegations of bullying and racist and threatening emails from Incognito, a ninth-year offensive guard.
TANNEHILL: QB says Incognito, Martin were friends
PHILBIN: Packers defend former assistant
The Dolphins organization, after initially putting out a statement that nothing of the sort had gone on, ended up suspending Incognito, one of Miami's most popular teammates.
"If you asked Jonathan Martin who his best friend is on this team two weeks ago, he'd say Richie Incognito," quarterback Ryan Tannehill told news reporters Wednesday. "It's tough for us to sit here and hear all that when we have each others' backs."
That's what other teammates tried to do Wednesday in support of Incognito.
"What's perceived is that Richie is this psychopath racist, and the reality is Richie was a pretty good teammate," tackle Tyson Clabo told news reporters. "I don't know why (Martin is) doing this. And the only person who knows why is Jonathan Martin."
Said wide receiver Brian Hartline: "If I'm not mistaken this is the same guy (Martin) that was laughing about this voicemail at one point in time."
Martin's representatives turned over to the Dolphins and the NFL the voicemail from Incognito to Martin with the racially charged threats. The team has undertaken a review of what happened, as has the NFL, with Commissioner Roger Goodell appointing Ted Wells, a prominent New York-based criminal attorney, to direct an independent inquiry into the team's workplace issues.
"Mr. Wells will conduct a thorough and objective investigation. He will ensure that we have all the facts so that we can address the matter constructively," Goodell said in a statement.
Dolphins coach Joe Philbin, who had seemed unaware of any brewing problems, said the team would take "all necessary measures" to fix any problem revealed by the investigations.
BLAME THE VICTIM?: Some players criticize Martin
In Green Bay, where Philbin was a former Packers assistant, head coach Mike McCarthy told news reporters: "I trust Joe Philbin with my children. That's the highest compliment I can give a man."
Martin has yet to talk publicly about the bullying he said he experienced, but his alma mater has come to his defense. "We're proud of Jonathan," is the tweet sent out today by Stanford football.
"He was a quiet guy. Never said much," Tannehill said of Martin, one of his protectors on the offensive line. "He was the same guy every day. ... Tough to see warning signs."
Many of the Dolphins players just find it difficult to believe the harassment was so intense that Martin felt he needed to leave.
"We joke with each other. You can't have thin skin around here," defensive tackle Randy Starks told news reporters. "We're trying to clear Richie's name. He's getting a bad rap."