Sometimes facts get lost in the avalanche of opinion, spin, and the soap opera aspect of feuds.
That appears to be the case in the Miami Dolphins' bullying scandal, which sideswiped the team's 2013 season.
Let us pretend we're a jury and simply break down the alleged facts of this NFL drama, investigating Jonathan Martin's claims that the Dolphins created a hostile working environment, and that he was bullied by Richie Incognito and others during his two seasons in the NFL.
1. During his rookie season Martin was given a horrible haircut by teammates, paid roughly $12,000 for a rookie dinner, and was initially called "The Big Weirdo" by fellow offensive linemen because the Stanford product wasn't viewed as "a typical football player" by his unit members. Martin also paid $15,000 to Incognito, contributing to an offensive lineman trip to Vegas he didn't attend after the 2012 season.
2. The Dolphins let Jake Long sign with St. Louis as a free agent and move Martin, who struggled as a 16-game starter at right and left tackle, to Long's old spot. Incognito puts together a social media campaign for the Dolphins to re-sign Long, a four-time Pro Bowl selection. But when a deal doesn't get down he takes Martin, who started the final four games of 2012 at left tackle, under his wing. The Sun-Sentinel reports that Incognito is encouraged by his coaches to toughen Martin up, getting him ready for the challenges of facing every team's best pass rusher.
3. Martin allows six sacks and 12 quarterback hurries in his six starts at left tackle in 2013. During week eight the Dolphins, which allowed a franchise-record 58 sacks last season, trade for veteran left tackle Bryant McKinnie because of the offensive line's struggles. Martin is moved to right tackle. During a conversation with the Sun-Sentinel leading up to that week's Patriots game Martin curses in the interview, and says "I've got to man up," accepting the challenge of moving back to right tackle, where he was replacing Tyson Clabo.
4. Martin allows a sack and three quarterback hurries as the Dolphins' new starting right tackle in Miami's 27-17 loss to the Patriots, which featured a second-half meltdown by the Dolphins. He's noticeably stressing about his performance after the game.
5. The following Monday Martin left the team seeking medical treatment after a lunch room prank he's often participated in - where everyone getting up from the table when the target approaches with his meal - was pulled on him. Head coach Joe Philbin visits Martin but he never addresses his issues with his head coach.
6. Reports surface that the locker room culture the Dolphins created, which featured rookie hazing and rituals Martin was subjected to in 2012 and 2013, prompted him to abandon his team. His representatives used a racially insensitive and threatening voice-mail from Incognito, and claimed Martin was being extorted for money as evidence Incognito was bullying Martin, and that the Dolphins created a hostile working environment for their players.
7. Incognito is suspended four games without pay after the Dolphins learn about the racial slur he used and threats he made in a voice-mail. Incognito is suspended another four games with pay for his involvement in the bullying saga. Incognito fights the suspension through the NFLPA, but agrees to wait for a hearing until the Ted Wells report is concluded. During Super Bowl week NFLPA commissioner DeMaurice Smith claims everyone but Martin participated in the NFLPA's investigation into Martin's claims.
8. Despite facing a firestorm of national scrutiny Dolphins teammates sided with Incognito during the bullying scandal, pointing out Incognito befriended Martin more than any other teammate, played the controversial voice-mail for teammates to mock a drunk Incognito, and disputed Martin's claims they created a hostile working environment for its young players.
9. The Sun-Sentinel reported that Martin's fellow linemates claim the 2012 second-round pick often got it easier than other rookies, most notably fellow rookie Josh Samuda, and claim the money Martin paid for the unit's Vegas trip was done so after he committed to attend the trip, then backed out.
10. The NFL's special investigation looking into the Dolphins' harassment case was conducted at the team's Davie facility for a week. Players, coaches and executives were questioned during the team's preparation for its 20-16 fourth-quarter loss to the Carolina Panthers on Nov. 24th.
11. The Dolphins keep Martin on the team's active roster for a full month, leaving the door open for his return to the team before placing him on injured reserve on Nov. 30, a day before the team's 23-3 road win over the New York Jets. Miami used the roster spot to promote D.J. Campbell up from the practice squad. The Dolphins reportedly continued to pay Martin the remainder of his 2013 salary.
12. Last week Dolphins owner Steve Ross admits he's spoken to Ted Wells about the impending report, which he expects to be released after the Super Bowl. Ross praises his organization for how it conducted itself during the scandal, the independent investigation, and hints he's not worried about the report's outcome. Ross also confesses he doesn't expect Martin or Incognito to ever play for his franchise again, hinting that Martin will be traded or released.
13. In an exclusive NBC interview former NFL coach Tony Dungy conducted the week of the Super Bowl Martin claims his position coaches knew of his struggles with teammates. But Martin also admitted he never went into specifics about his issues. Martin also admitted he never confided in any of his teammates, and never told Philbin about what he was enduring during their communications after leaving the team. Martin also declines to cite specific instances where he was bullied or harassed by Dolphins players, and wouldn't name anyone other than Incognito in his claims.
14. A day after Martin's NBC interview aired Incognito's lawyer claimed Martin's communications with Incognito were just as abusive, aggressive, and inappropriate. In a statement the lawyer cited instances where Martin playfully threatened Incognito's life, and that of his family. Incognito's lawyer also claimed Martin admitted to his teammate that he was stressing about his performance before leaving the team, and challenged how Martin handled the stresses of playing in the NFL, and his attempts to paint Incognito as a bully.
15. A transcript of more than 1,000 text messages Martin and Incognito exchanged is released by Incognito's camp and they indicate Incognito and Martin had a friendship, hung out occasionally, and often uses inappropriate language to communicate with each other. These same text messages were turned over in the NFL's investigation. Here are the themes of those text messages.
The Ted Wells report in expected this week, and maybe it features more specifics on hazing, extortion attempts, and bullying.
However, the facts of this saga hint that this drama centers around Martin's struggles as the Dolphins' starting left tackle, his mental state in his second season in the NFL, and his relationship with Incognito, an alpha male who possessed an aggressive personality, and was viewed as a leader in the Dolphins locker room.Copyright © 2015, The Baltimore Sun