Suspended Miami Dolphins player Richie Incognito said the apparently threatening and abusive voicemails and text messages he sent to teammate Jonathan Martin, whom he called a good friend, "were coming from a place of love."
Incognito, in an interview with Fox's Jay Glazer, excerpts of which were broadcast today, addressed the accusations of hazing and racism he has faced since his suspension from the team for expletive-laced rants directed at the rookie.
"My actions were coming from a place of love," Incognito said. "No matter how bad or how vulgar it sounds, that's how we communicate, that's how our friendship was. Those are the facts and that's what I'm accountable for."
Dolphins coach Joe Philbin said the team suspended Incognito indefinitely on Nov. 4 after Martin turned in voicemails and text messages showing Incognito using the N-word to describe Martin and threatening his family, according to ESPN.
The controversy came to light after Fox Sports reported that Martin and other rookies had been forced to pay thousands of dollars for dinner tabs and vacations for more veteran members of the team.
The NFL is now investigating the Dolphins' workplace, according to Philbin.
Incognito rejected allegations that he was "the face of bullying in America," but told Glazer, a longtime friend, that he is "embarrassed" when he sees his messages flash across television screens.
"This isn't an issue about bullying. This is an issue of my and Jon's relationship where I have taken stuff too far. I did not intend to hurt him," Incognito said. "When the words are put in the context, I understand why a lot of eyebrows get raised. But people don't know how Jon and I communicate to one another."
Incognito turned his cell phone over to Glazer to let him see the 1,142 text messages between the two men in their 18 months as teammates, including some showing that Martin and Incognito have been in contact even after the scandal broke.
In one message, sent after Martin left the team, the rookie congratulated Incognito on the Dolphins' win, and told Incognito, "I'm good."
In another message, Martin wrote, "I don't blame you guys at all. It's just the culture around football and the locker room got to me a little."
Earlier this week, a lawyer for Martin said his client endured a "malicious physical attack" in addition to harassment from unnamed teammates that went far beyond the traditional locker room hazing.
Attorney David Cornwell, who has defended such athletes as Alex Rodriguez and Ryan Braun, made the allegations in a statement Thursday night. Cornwell's statement alleges that an unidentified Dolphins player made a vulgar comment about having sex with Martin's sister.
Cornwell's statement makes no mention of Incognito.
"Jonathan Martin's toughness is not at issue," Cornwell said in his statement. "Jonathan has started every game with the Miami Dolphins since he was drafted in 2012.
"The issue is Jonathan's treatment by his teammates. Jonathan endured harassment that went far beyond the traditional locker room hazing. ... Beyond the well-publicized voice mail with its racial epithet, Jonathan endured a malicious physical attack on him by a teammate, and daily vulgar comments. These facts are not in dispute," he added.
Incognito said there were no recognizable signs from Martin that he could not handle what he chalked up to be offensive, but not atypical, locker room banter.
Incognito said Martin "never showed signs that football was getting to him, [or] that the locker room was getting to him."
"As a leader, as his best friend on the team, that's what has me miffed," he said. "I never saw this coming."
Martin has since left the team and reportedly checked himself into a hospital last week seeking treatment for emotional distress. He was spotted leaving his parents' Los Angeles home Thursday.
Dolphins' players have defended Incognito and praised him as a loyal teammate with leadership skills. Teammates have been less passionate in their support of Martin, saying he and Incognito behaved like best friends.
"They did a lot of stuff together," tackle Tyson Clabo said. "So if he had a problem with the way he was treating him, he had a funny way of showing it."
Quarterback Ryan Tannehill said, "If you had asked Jon Martin a week before who his best friend on the team was, he would have said Richie Incognito.
"The first guy to stand up for Jonathan when anything went down on the field, any kind of tussle, Richie was the first guy there. When they wanted to hang out outside of football, who was together? Richie and Jonathan," he added.