WASHINGTON - Richie Incognito, the Miami Dolphins offensive lineman suspended for allegedly bullying teammate Jonathan Martin until Martin quit the team, called himself Martin's "best friend on the team" and said he never meant to hurt him.
Incognito added that he and Martin have been in communication since Martin left the team last Monday, and that Martin has told him that the accusations of bullying against Incognito are "not coming from me."
In a Fox Sports interview with Jay Glazer, Incognito acknowledged sending Martin texts and voicemails that included racial slurs.
"When I see those words come up across the screen, I'm embarrassed by it," Incognito said.
He added, however, that it was part of the way he and Martin, and the rest of the Miami Dolphins' offensive line, communicated. "It's not right. ... I understand why a lot of eyebrows get raised. But people don't know how John and I communicate with each other," Incognito said.
"I'm not a racist, and to judge me by that one word is wrong. In no way, shape or form is it acceptable for me to use that word, even friend-to-friend in a voice mail," he added.
"When it's on the screen it sounds like I'm a racist pig; I'm a meathead. It sounds like a lot of things that it's not."
He said he had no idea that Martin was undergoing emotional stress, and that upset him. "As the leader, as his best friend on the team, that's what has me miffed - how I missed this. I never saw it coming."
Reminded by Glazer of his past, which has included many incidents on and off the field, Incognito said, "If you go by just all the knucklehead stuff that I've done in the past ... You're thinking this guy's a terrible person; this guy's a racist."
But he cited supportive comments from his teammates when reporters came to the Dolphins' locker room last week.
Incognito said he and Martin exchanged texts Friday, the day after the Dolphins' last game and four days after Martin left the team.
"I just texted him as a friend and said, 'What's up with this, man?' and he said, 'It's not coming from me; I haven't said anything to anyone.'"
If Martin was next to him, Incognito said, "I'd give him a big hug right now ... and just be like, 'Dude, what's going on? Why didn't you come to me?' and if he were to say 'Listen, you took it way to far; you hurt me,' I would just apologize" to Martin and his family.
"But I never meant it that way."
After the interview, Glazer read some texts from Incognito's phone -- some of 1,142 texts between the two players in the past year -- including one where Martin said, "I don't blame you guys at all, it's just the culture around football and the locker room got to me a little."
Watch the interview, courtesy of NDN, here.
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