The Miami Dolphins have fired long-time trainer Kevin O'Neill in the wake of the NFL's independent investigation into the team's locker room culture.
The news was first reported by ESPN, and has since been confirmed by the Sun-Sentinel. O'Neill made the trip to Indianapolis to attend the NFL combine and was fired at the event by team executives Dennis Hickey and Dawn Aponte, and head coach Joe Philbin.
O'Neill, who has been with the franchise for 18 seasons as the head athletic trainer, was singled out in the Ted Wells report for not being cooperative with the investigation into the locker room culture, and harassment that led to Jonathan Martin's departure from the team.
According to the report, Martin claims O'Neill "once pulled him aside and told him he was too nice and needed to stand up for himself more."
The report claims O'Neill was not cooperative with the questions Wells and his team asked, and that their interview was cut short.
Some of those questions centered around Richie Incognito, Mike Pouncey and John Jerry's alleged harassment of assistant trainer Naohisa Inoue, who the report says was occasionally picked on because of his Japanese heritage.
On December 7, 2012, the anniversary of the Japanese attack on Pearl Harbor, Incognito, Jerry and Pouncey donned traditional Japanese headbands that featured a rising sun emblem (which the assistant trainer had given them) and jokingly threatened to harm the assistant trainer physically in retaliation for the Pearl Harbor attack. According to Martin, the assistant trainer confided in him that he was upset about the Pearl Harbor comments, finding them derogatory toward his heritage.
The "Assistant Trainer" denied all of Martin's claims, and admitted to the investigating team that his cooperation would make players uncomfortable with him. However, the report determined the trainer's denials weren't believable because of texts he sent Martin hours after he left the team admitted that he was indeed insulted by the actions of Incognito, Pouncey and Jerry.
The Dolphins are presently conducting their own investigation based on the findings of the report, and it is possible O'Neill might not be the only invididual fired.
Offensive line coach Jim Turner, whose unit is at the center of the bullying scandal, was also mentioned in the Wells report as an individual on Miami's staff who wasn't always forthcoming, or truthful.
Turner, who has spent all two of his NFL seasons with the Dolphins, was also involved in behavior and conduct that was deemed inappropriate. He allegedly witnessed much of the teasing that was done in his meeting rooms, and he participated in at least one instance, buying offensive lineman Andrew McDonald a male blow up doll.
McDonald, who is now with the Carolina Panthers, has issues a statement supporting Turner, and downplaying claims he was harassed during his tenure with the Dolphins.
Turner's unit struggled significantly last season, allowing a franchise-record 58 sacks and contributing just 1,440 rushing yards and eight rushing touchdowns.
This offseason the Dolphins hired John Benton, the former Houston Texan's offensive coach, to serve as the assistant offensive line coach, and the eight-year veteran is more than qualified to serve as the primary offensive line coach if Turner is removed, or demoted.
During his tenure in Houston Benton's offensive lines set franchise records for total offense each year from 2008-10 and has registered the top three rushing seasons in franchise history from 2010-12, including franchise rushing records in 2010 and 2011.
According to multiple media reports Turner did not accompany the Dolphins assistant coaches to the NFL Combine, which is held in Indianapolis this week and next. The Dolphins typically take all their assistants and trainers to the combine to help evaluate the 335 draft prospects attending the workouts and medical checks.
It is possible the Dolphins are waiting to conclude their own investigation before determining Turner's fate.Copyright © 2015, The Baltimore Sun