Dolphins fire offensive line coach Turner and trainer O'Neill over bullying scandal
Miami Dolphins offensive line coach Jim Turner runs on the field during NFL football practice in Davie, Fla., in this Nov. 6, 2013 photo. (AP / Lynne Sladky)
Steven Wine, The Associated Press
Published Wednesday, February 19, 2014 10:07PM EST
Last Updated Wednesday, February 19, 2014 10:25PM EST
MIAMI -- The Miami Dolphins fired offensive line coach Jim Turner and longtime head athletic trainer Kevin O'Neill on Wednesday for their roles in the team's bullying scandal.
The moves were the first punitive steps taken by the Dolphins since a report on the NFL's investigation of the case was released last week.
Investigators found that guard Richie Incognito and two teammates engaged in persistent harassment directed at tackle Jonathan Martin, another offensive lineman and an assistant trainer. Martin left the team at midseason, and Incognito was suspended for the final eight games.
Turner didn't attempt to stop the harassment and even took part in some of the taunting of offensive lineman Andrew McDonald, the NFL report said. O'Neill expressed hostility toward the investigation and cut short an interview with those conducting it, according to the report.
O'Neill was fired shortly after he and other team officials arrived in Indianapolis for the league's annual scouting combine. Turner didn't make the trip.
In a news release announcing the firings, Dolphins owner Stephen Ross said the behaviour described in the report was "against the core values of our organization."
"After receiving the report, I conducted my own internal review of the facts to determine the appropriate steps for our organization," Ross said. "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."
Ross said he has been in contact with Martin and will meet soon with the two-year veteran. Martin has two seasons remaining on his contract with the Dolphins, but last month Ross said he didn't believe the tackle would play again for Miami. Incognito becomes a free agent this winter and will try to sign with another team.
Coach Joe Philbin made his first public comments since the report's release, saying the vulgar language and behaviour outlined were disappointing and unacceptable, and adding that fundamental values of respect were violated.
"That ultimately rests on my shoulders, and I will be accountable moving forward for making sure that we emphasize a team-first culture of respect toward one another," Philbin said in a statement.
The report found no evidence that Philbin was aware of abusive conduct within the team.
Several people interviewed told investigators Turner gave McDonald a male sex doll as a gag gift around Christmas 2012. Turner told investigators he didn't remember the incident, but investigators said they didn't believe him.
Martin told investigators O'Neill and other team employees saw an assistant trainer being humiliated and didn't intervene. O'Neill allegedly laughed at racial insults directed toward the assistant trainer.
O'Neill was the Dolphins' trainer for 18 years and has been in the NFL for 25 years. He and his Miami staff won national awards, including one last year from the National Athletic Trainers' Association.
Turner joined the Dolphins shortly after Philbin was hired as head coach two years ago.