(CNN) — Richie Incognito considered fellow offensive lineman Jonathan Martin a “little brother,” Miami Dolphins quarterback Ryan Tannehill said Wednesday, saying the team was caught off-guard by Martin’s accusations of misconduct against his teammate.
Neither player is with the team now; Martin left abruptly last week after an incident in the team cafeteria and Incognito was suspended on Sunday after Martin’s representatives reportedly turned over voice mails and texts with racial slurs and threats of violence to the Dolphins and the NFL.
But while they were with the team the two were good friends. At least in Tannehill’s mind.
“I think if you had asked Jon Martin a week before who his best friend on the team was, he would have said Richie Incognito,” the quarterback told reporters. “The first guy to stand up for Jonathan if anything went down on the field, any kind of tussle, Richie was the first guy there. When they wanted to hang out … outside of football, who was together: Richie and Jonathan. So I can’t, I’m not in those guys’ shoes. I can’t explain what’s going on.”
Tannehill, a second-year quarterback, said Martin was a quiet guy who made a few jokes but was mostly business. His demeanor remained the same even up to the night he left the team after other players played a prank on him in the dining hall.
“There were no warning signs,” he said.
Tannehill said he had exchanged recent texts with Martin, once on the night the offensive tackle left and then on Friday, the day after the Dolphins beat the Bengals.
“I miss being out there,” Martin said, according to Tannehill.
The league office is investigating Martin’s claims of misconduct. On Wednesday, Commissioner Roger Goodell chose Ted Wells to lead the inquiry. Wells also participated in an investigation into allegations of sexual harassment at Syracuse in 2012 and one that led to a change in the head of the NBA players union earlier this year.
Dolphins coach Joe Philbin repeated his assertion that he will institute change if the NFL report finds his staff at fault.
“If the review reveals anything that needs to be corrected we will take all necessary measures to fix it, to ensure that this doesn’t happen again,” he said.
Philbin said he had no comment on a report in the South Florida Sun-Sentinel that Dolphins coaches asked Incognito to help toughen up Martin, a 24-year-old second-year player.
“Jonathan Martin came in here and worked hard every single day,” he said in response to a followup question.
The team hasn’t met to discuss the situation, Tannehill said, but it was widely discussed the first few days by players in the cafeteria and in the locker room.
The allegations of bullying and racially charged language were “mind-blowing” to the team, he said. As a quarterback and a team leader he would have done something if he saw something that crossed the line, he said. No one knew there was a situation to be stopped, he added.
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Incognito, a nine-year veteran, treated Martin like a “little brother.”
“He gave him a hard time, he messed with him, but he was the first one there to have his back in any situation,” Tannehill said.
Incognito, 30, has only said a few words since he was suspended.
“You know, I’m just trying to weather the storm right now. And this will pass,” he told CNN affiliate WSVN outside a doctor’s office in Weston, Florida, on Tuesday.
Incognito said he didn’t want to comment on media reports that he sent Martin voice mails containing racial slurs and threats of physical violence. When asked about his status with the team, Incognito closed the door to his BMW without answering and drove away.
ESPN, NFL.com and other media outlets reported that representatives for Martin on Sunday submitted the voice mails and texts to the league and the Dolphins. One of the messages, from April, contained a reference to Martin’s biracial background, according to ESPN’s sources.
“Hey, wassup, you half (expletive) piece of (expletive). I saw you on Twitter, you been training 10 weeks. I’ll (expletive) in your (expletive) mouth. I’m gonna slap your (expletive) mouth, I’m gonna slap your real mother across the face (laughter). (Expletive) you, you’re still a rookie. I’ll kill you.”
Martin remains on the team’s roster while Incognito is on the suspended list.
CNN reached out multiple times to representatives for each player but hasn’t received comment.
By CNN’s Steve Almasy
CNN Sports’ Quand Thomas contributed to this report.