Embattled Miami Dolphins offensive lineman Richie Incognito said the drama surrounding him and teammate Jonathan Martin "isn't an issue of bullying" in his first interview since being suspended by the Dolphins a week ago.
"I've taken stuff too far," Incognito told FOXSports in an interview that aired Sunday. "I didn't intend to hurt him."
Martin left the Dolphins nearly two weeks ago and, through his attorney, said he could no longer handle sustained harassment from inside the locker room, particularly from Incognito. Martin's camp provided the transcript of a voicemail Incognito left for Martin in April in which Incognito used a racial epithet and vulgar language.
Incognito told FOXSports' Jay Glazer that the specific voicemail was intended to "shock" Martin, who had skipped a voluntary offseason workout.
"I wanted him to call me back," Incognito said. "When the words are put in context, I understand why eyebrows got raised. But people don't understand how Jon and I communicate with each other."
Incognito's comments to FOXSports are in line with what Dolphins players told reporters throughout this week - that Incognito and Martin were friends, and the type of friends that often used outrageous language with each other in a joking manner. Incognito said Martin had previously sent him a message in which Martin wrote he would "murder your whole [expletive] family," that Incognito knew was a joke.
Incognito, who said he was "embarrassed" by his words and his actions, did not defend his usage of the racial slur, though he did say it is a word that is commonly used in the Dolphins' locker room.
"I'm not a racist. And to judge me by that one word is wrong," Incognito said. "In no way shape or form is it ever acceptable for me to use that word even if it's friend to friend on a voicemail. I regret that."
Incognito provided FOXSports with the contents of his phone, including 1,142 text messages exchanged with Martin in the past year as proof of their friendship. The two teammates exchanged messages as recently as Nov. 1, the day after Miami beat Cincinnati, and Incognito said that if he were to see Martin now, he would hug him. If Martin were to tell Incognito that his feelings were hurt, Incognito said he would apologize to both Martin and Martin's family.
"My actions were coming from a place of love," Incognito said. "No matter how bad and how vulgar it sounds, that's how we communicate, that's how our friendship was, and those are the facts and that's what I'm accountable for."