An NFL Players Association statement that no "formal investigation" has been launched against Miami Dolphins guard Richie Incognito as it relates to harassment of teammate Jonathan Martin is directly related to the failure of Martin to file a formal complaint, sources told ESPN.
Martin has not filed a formal complaint because he fears retribution, primarily from Incognito, sources told ESPN.
Martin left the team earlier in the week after an incident.
However, sources tell ESPN that the matter is absolutely under review and preliminarily identifies Incognito as an alleged offender in multiple incidents of possible harassment and bullying over the past two seasons, with Martin not the only victim.
Incognito took to Twitter on Sunday, stating that he wants his "name cleared." He called the reports "false speculation" and "slander" and said ESPN was hiding behind sources "who are not man enough to put their name behind the BS you report."
— Richie incognito (@68INCOGNITO) November 3, 2013
Sources told ESPN that one of the significant allegations being reviewed is that Incognito got Martin to contribute $15,000 to help finance a trip to Las Vegas by a group of Dolphins last summer, even though Martin preferred not to travel with the group.
Rather than go, Martin simply gave Incognito the $15,000, sources told ESPN, fearing the consequences if he did not hand over the money.
One source said there are other instances of intimidation, captured in text messages and at least one demeaning voice mail. Martin's recent reported text communications with Incognito that indicated he did not hold the guard responsible for his absence also were sent in the same spirit of fearing retribution, sources told ESPN.
The Dolphins are trying to put out the fire behind the scenes. Coach Joe Philbin, who said he takes bullying quite seriously, was unsuccessful in an effort to persuade Martin's father, Gus, to issue a joint statement that the team and the family will work together to resolve the issues, sources told ESPN.
The Dolphins did issue a statement Sunday morning, refuting the reports of bullying and claiming that there is open communication between the team and Martin.
"The Miami Dolphins, including Coach Joe Philbin and Jonathan's teammates, have been in communication with Jonathan and his family since his departure from the club and continue to be in contact," the Dolphins said in the statement. "Our primary concern for Jonathan is his overall health and well-being. As an organization, we take any accusations of player misconduct seriously. The notion of bullying is based on speculation and has not been presented to us as a concern from Jonathan or anyone else internally. The reports that the NFLPA is investigating our players are inaccurate.
"Additionally, the NFL offered its assistance during this time, which we appreciated and gladly accepted. We will continue to make Jonathan's health and well-being a focus as we do with all of our players."
Martin's father and mother, Jane-Howard Martin, were not pleased with the suggestion from one high-ranking Dolphins official that Incognito is getting a bum rap and that Martin has been unable to discern the difference between traditional hazing and real workplace abuse.
When Martin returns to the Dolphins, or football, remains in question. He certainly wants to, but not under the same work conditions that have existed in the Dolphins organization, sources told ESPN. He has been under psychiatric care and counseling.
The Dolphins must make a decision by Tuesday at 4 p.m. ET on whether to carry Martin on the active roster, which means he would get paid, or place him on the non-football illness list, which means he might not get paid and would potentially lose service time that counts toward being a vested veteran eligible for post-career benefits.
Martin's attorneys and the union are monitoring his roster status, and Martin wants assurance that if and when he does return, it will be a safe workplace environment.
An NFL spokesman said the league is always interested in information that would violate the league's workplace policies.