The PR pendulum has now swung the other way. Richie Incognito now seems measured. Relaxed. Almost like…the victim.
Whoever prepared Incognito for the interview with FOX's Jay Glazer that was broadcast Sunday earned their money. Incognito owes them big. They turned a bigoted troll into a likable guy. Presto.
Now, Incognito is still a bad guy. But he doesn't look like it now. He looks like..the victim.
What Incognito did successfully was muddle the story. Many will now simply chalk up the controversy to two men with a screwy, dysfunctional relationship and not what it is: one 300-plus-pound athlete bullying another 300-pound-plus athlete, in a runaway culture of bullying in that locker room.
Incognito, to me, said a lot of things that seem false or shady or self-serving. Definitely self-serving.
Of all the self-serving sewage spewed by Incognito during his interview with Glazer, of all the crap, of all the excuses, of all the blame-the-victim, there was one thing that rang true. Just one. And it was telling. The answer, in many ways, is an indicator of where the Dolphins organization, and the future of the NFL, is headed when it comes to hazing.
Glazer asked Incognito a smart question, maybe the biggest question of all: Did the Dolphins coaching staff give him an order to toughen up Jonathan Martin? Did the coaches, in the vernacular of A Few Good Men, order a code red?
Incognito, self-appointed bad ass and resident tough guy, chickened out. "I can't answer that," Glazer said Incognito told him.
But his non-answer was telling, and it perhaps confirms a great deal of where this case that has caught the attention of the entire country will go next.
Several high-ranking league sources told me they believe the NFL's investigation will lead to a focus on not just Incognito but the team's coaching staff and management. The NFL wants to know not just what happened, but if something did happen, how was it allowed?
These sources believe that not only will the NFL punish Incognito but that Dolphins owner Stephen Ross is so angry about the situation that both general manager Jeff Ireland and coach Joe Philbin are in danger of being fired.
An NFL source also confirmed an ESPN report that Incognito was called into the NFL offices in New York at the beginning of last season. The NFL queried Incognito about several allegations against him during a meeting which essentially served as a warning to Incognito.
This is why the NFL, using this case and other problematic ones involving Incognito, is expected to come down hard on him.
But the league likely won't stop there. It will use what's happened in Miami to issue formal protocols on bullying, I'm told. The NFL will do everything in its power to stop it from ever happening again—the same way it used the Saints case to all but end bounties.
"The hazing will be gone," said one league source. "Totally gone. Done."
The Incognito interview was a backdrop to all of this. What people who know Incognito closely will tell you is that he's charming—until he's not. When he's charming, he's really charming. When he's foul, he's really foul.
To me, Incognito came off as a tremendous phony.
The reason he is full of malarkey is because it wasn't his relationship with Martin that made him allegedly direct a racial slur at Warren Sapp. It wasn't his relationship with Martin that caused a woman to accuse Incognito of various ugly indiscretions.
One of my points throughout this entire sordid situation is that it's possible Martin played along with Incognito because he was totally intimidated by him.
“A week before this went down, Jonathan Martin texted me, ‘I will murder your whole F—ing family,'" Incognito told Glazer. "Now did I think Jonathan Martin was going to murder my family? Not one bit."
(Glazer later tweeted that he has the Martin text. And over a thousand more between the two men.)
Incognito's defense: He did it, too!
The problem is that Incognito is the veteran. He should know better, and he shouldn't be joking around about killing teammates' families in the first place. He's supposed to be the adult.
(He also didn't talk about what Martin's attorney, David Cornwell, said, which was that one player threatened to gang-rape his sister.)
On the now-infamous voicemail in which Incognito used a racial slur, Incognito says he hated using the word, but that it was a joke.
"When I see that voicemail, when I see those words come across the screen," he said. "I'm embarrassed by them."
"To judge me by that one word is wrong," he said.
And that's how the interview went. Incognito aced it. I don't believe anything he says, but I can see how many people will.
Because he looks like…the victim.
Even though he's the bully.