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NFL investigation begins; Incognito’s dark past in focus

At the request of head coach Joe Philbin and owner Stephen Ross, the NFL opened its investigation into alleged misconduct by Jonathan Martin’s teammates with the Miami Dolphins.

Martin, a second-year offensive tackle, turned over evidence to his family and representatives Sunday. The NFL also received and reviewed multiple text and voicemail messages from teammate Richie Incognito, NFL Network reported Tuesday. Incognito was suspended indefinitely Sunday, not long after Philbin said he first learned of the misconduct allegations from Martin’s agent.

Martin left the team last week after an incident, initially portrayed as a prank, in the team cafeteria led to an emotional breakdown.

One of the most incriminating messages turned over includes a racial slur and physical threats from Incognito to Martin.

“Hey, wassup, you half (expletive) piece of (expletive). I saw you on Twitter, you been training ten 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.”

Teammates were largely unaware of Martin’s issues, according to Albert Breer of NFL Network. Incognito was a member of the Dolphins’ player-elected leadership council.

Philbin said Monday he welcomes the thorough and objective review to ensure all players have a safe workplace environment.

“I will tell you that, if the review shows this is not a safe atmosphere, I will take whatever measures are necessary to ensure that it is,” Philbin said. “I have that obligation to the players that I coach on a daily basis. And I will do that.”

Incognito, who started at right guard, has been dismissed, disciplined or released by every team he has played for since he attended Nebraska.

He was suspended as a sophomore for throwing punches at Penn State defensive lineman Jeremiah Davis and attended the Menninger Clinic in Topeka, Kan., a specialty hospital with psychiatric and behavioral specialties.

While at Nebraska, he was also charged with three counts of assault for a fight at a party.

He withdrew from Nebraska in 2004 after a series of disciplinary issues caused coach Bill Callahan to suspend him indefinitely. Incognito enrolled at Oregon and was released by the Ducks after just one week. Coach Mike Bellotti said the conditions for admission to the program “were not met.”

He was a third-round pick of the St. Louis Rams in 2005. The Indianapolis Colts, via Tony Dungy and Bill Polian — coach and general manager of the franchise at the time — and New England Patriots, per then-general manager Scott Pioli, designated Incognito as “do not draft” because of character concerns.

Incognito was named the dirtiest player in the NFL by The Sporting News in 2009, to which Incognito said was an admission by other players that they couldn’t keep up with his “intensity.” That season, he was released by the St. Louis Rams after drawing two personal foul penalties for head-butting opponents after the whistle. It was his second game — the other was the ‘09 regular-season opener against Seattle — with multiple personal-foul penalties. He also criticized Rams fans and was fined for making an obscene gesture to a cameraman during practice.

He started 44 games with the Rams.

“None of it shocks me,” said Giants kicker Josh Brown, a teammate of Incognito at Nebraska and with the Rams. “I don’t know any details obviously. The league hasn’t released anything. But Richie seems to be a person with a tortured soul. He’s had these issues for quite awhile and it’s sad.”

Brown said he still considers Incognito a friend, but added “this seems to be somebody who’s really got some demons that are out of the building,” and recalled talk at Nebraska that he locked himself in a room and other outward “signs of depression.”

The Buffalo Bills rolled the dice on Incognito, claiming him off waivers from the Rams. It was met with extreme skepticism in the Buffalo locker room. Linebacker Kawika Mitchell, on injured reserve at the time, said via Twitter “Biggest disappointment this yr. The guys a bum. Dirty and always will be. Really wish I was playin rite now. Seriously…I know we’re n need of oline but this guy sucks (expletive).”

Miami signed Incognito to a one-year deal in March 2010. He received a trespassing citation for a fight with a security guard.

“He’s an intense guy,” wide receiver Mike Wallace said. “Everybody knows that. I think he was just being Richie. I love playing with Richie. I wish he was here right now.”

Houston Texans defensive end Antonio Smith, who has had two high-profile tangles on the field with Incognito, including the 2013 preseason when Smith was suspended one game for swinging a helmet at Incognito, said Monday he isn’t surprised to hear the latest turn.

“You are who you are,” Smith said.