Kevin O'Neill, the longtime head athletic trainer for the Miami Dolphins who was fired Wednesday as a consequence of findings in the Ted Wells report on workplace harassment, was honored Friday night with the 2014 Fain-Cain Memorial Award for Outstanding Athletic Trainer of the Year by the NFL Physician's Society.
The award was presented Friday night by Dolphins team physician Dr. Jerry Kuykendall at the NFLPS Scientific Meeting and Symposium, held annually at the NFL scouting combine. Team physicians, athletic trainers and physical therapists were in attendance.
O'Neill did not attend the ceremony. Co-worker Troy Maurer accepted the award on his behalf and read a statement from O'Neill that elicited a standing ovation.
The Fain-Cain award is named in honor of two former NFL team physicians, and the recipient is selected by the executive board of the NFLPS. It is presented to the individual "who best reflects the virtues of a certified athletic trainer and displays the highest level of professionalism," according to the Professional Football Athletic Trainers Society website.
O'Neill was fired along with Dolphins offensive line coach Jim Turner in the wake of the Wells report concerning workplace harassment with the Dolphins. One of O'Neill's assistants, the report said, was the subject of racial slurs from Dolphins offensive linemen Richie Incognito, Mike Pouncey and John Jerry. The report said O'Neill failed to act, and also did not cooperate fully with Wells' investigation.
"After receiving the report, I conducted my own internal review of the facts to determine the appropriate steps for our organization," Dolphins owner Stephen Ross said in a statement. "Jim Turner and Kevin O'Neill are good people who care a great deal about their profession and the players whom they serve, but both exhibited poor judgment at times which led me to this conclusion."
Ryan Vermillion, head athletic trainer for the Carolina Panthers, has known O'Neill for more than 30 years and worked with him both at the University of Miami and the Dolphins. He says the entire NFL athletic training community was stunned by the firing of O'Neill.
"Kevin is a true professional who has worked for years to help NFL players reach their full potential and NFL teams reach their ultimate goal of winning," Vermillion said. "He dedicated his life to working with others."