Yes, the NFLPA is in a bit of a delicate position when it comes to the current situation in Miami.
The minefield through which the union currently is tiptoeing has been complicated, to say the least, by the challenge filed by guard Richie Incognito to his ongoing suspension. According to Albert Breer of NFL Network, Incognito supports his belief that there was no “conduct detrimental” to the Dolphins in part by arguing that the “conduct detrimental” has occurred based on the actions of tackle Jonathan Martin and his attorney, David Cornwell.
“If any conduct has been detrimental to the team, it is the manner in which Mr. Martin’s representatives, including Mr. [David] Cornwell on behalf of his client, have elected to vilify Mr. Incognito and the entire Dolphins organization in the court of public opinion,” the grievance states, per Breer.
It’s unclear who actually wrote those words. The NFLPA previously announced that the grievance had been filed on Incognito’s behalf. Although the accusation ultimately belongs to Incognito, it would be naive to assume that the longstanding feud between Cornwell and NFLPA executive director DeMaurice Smith had no impact on the decision to defend Incognito by attacking Martin and Cornwell.
The strategy also may help explain the decision of Martin to exclude the NFLPA from his Friday meeting with NFL independent investigator Ted Wells.
The Incognito grievance also echoes the notion that Martin participated in the communications to which he now objects. The challenge asserts that Incognito’s behavior was “welcome and mutual and reflected the normal manner in which the various players interacted with one another during the one and one-half season that Mr. Martin and Mr. Incognito were teammates.”
The grievance claims that the team’s discipline of Incognito “is inappropriate, unreasonable, arbitrary, disparate, inconsistent with principles of progressive discipline and without just cause.”
Incognito requested an expedited resolution of the grievance. According to Breer, a hearing has been set for Thursday.
Under the labor agreement between the NFL and the NFLPA, the Dolphins can suspend Incognito up to four games without pay. Absent an order reversing the current suspension, Miami must either bring Incognito back or cut him by December 2.
A quick ruling from arbitrator Jonathan Marks could limit the suspension to two games, forcing the Dolphins to make a decision about Incognito by the end of the week.
Last Sunday, Peter King reported on Football Night in America that at least one playoff contender is interested in Incognito. Presumably, Incognito has accelerated his challenge to the suspension in order to gain his freedom, if reports that he’ll never play for the Dolphins again are accurate.