This is supposed to be the time of the year when America’s most popular sports league is making headlines for the surprising undefeated Kansas City Chiefs and pinpointing which teams have the best chance of making it to the Super Bowl in February.
However, after the National Football League seemingly escaped the racial slurs of Philadelphia Eagles receiver, Riley Cooper, during the off-season, another more punctuating incident has roared out of the Miami Dolphins camp.
While any incident where a white player demeans a Black player by using the dreadful N-word is beyond regretful, what is being reported about the suspended white player, Richie Incognito, late Sunday for misconduct related to the treatment of Dolphins Black teammate, Jonathan Martin, may serve as a boiling point for the close knit NFL fraternity.
Martin abruptly left the team a week ago to receive help for emotional issues that he said was primarily caused by Incognito.
According to transcripts of voice mail messages and text messages left for the Miami Dolphins' Jonathan Martin by teammate, Richie Incognito, indicate a pattern of racial epithets and profane language, according to an ESPN report.
Multiple sources confirmed to ESPN that the following is a transcript of a voice message Incognito left for Martin in April 2013, a year after Martin was drafted:
"Hey, wassup, you half n----- piece of s---. I saw you on Twitter, you been training 10 weeks. [I want to] s--- in your f---ing mouth. [I'm going to] slap your f---ing mouth. [I'm going to] slap your real mother across the face [laughter]. F--- you, you're still a rookie. I'll kill you."
The ESPN report indicated that officials from both the NFL and the Dolphins have heard the tape and have copies of the message.
Additionally, the report revealed sources familiar with the tapes say these are terms Incognito used over time and were not isolated incidents, including the use of the racial epithet multiple times.
Sources also say Martin received a series of texts that include derogatory terms referring to the female anatomy and sexual orientation.
A timeline of notable incidents involving offensive lineman Incognito, both in his college and professional careers:
Incognito was suspended indefinitely by the Dolphins on Sunday night for conduct detrimental to the team. Meanwhile, the Miami Herald reported Monday that the team plans to cut ties with him.
"He's done," a team source told the newspaper. "There are procedures in place, and everyone wants to be fair. The NFL is involved. But from a club perspective, he'll never play another game here."
In a statement announcing his suspension, the Dolphins said, "we believe in maintaining a culture of respect for one another and as a result, we believe this decision is in the best interest of the organization at this time. As we noted earlier, we reached out to the NFL to conduct an objective and thorough review. We will continue to work with the league on this matter."
Martin left the team last week after a lunchroom incident. It is unknown whether and when Martin plans to return to the team. The Dolphins have until 4 p.m. ET Tuesday to take him off the non-football-related illness list.
This is not the first time Incognito has been in trouble. In 2009, he got into a verbal altercation with then-St. Louis Rams coach, Steve Spagnuolo for multiple penalties in a game. Incognito was waived a few days later. Incognito also was suspended for the 2004 season in college at Nebraska because of off-the-field incidents.
In the preseason, Houston Texans defensive lineman Antonio Smith swung a helmet at Incognito during a game, alleging foul play.
On Monday, Smith said he wasn't surprised Incognito was involved in such an incident.
"You are what you are I guess," Smith said. "That doesn't surprise me one bit."
Incognito talked to NFL.com this past summer about problems he's had to overcome through therapy with anger-management issues and substance abuse, particularly when he was with the Rams at the beginning of his career.
"I mean, we'd have practice the next morning, and I'm out until all hours of the night, running the town," Incognito told NFL.com. "Drinking. Doing drugs. I was doing everything that a professional athlete should not be doing."
He had seemed to turn his image around with the Dolphins, however, earning a share of the team's "good guy" award last season, which is given to the player who is most cooperative with the local media. He also was voted to his first Pro Bowl in 2012.
"I'm definitely not a choir boy," Incognito told NFL.com in the story published earlier this year. "You know, I'm definitely not healed, and I'm not saying that I don't make mistakes. But from where I was to where I am now, I mean, it's night and day. And it's something that, you know, I hope people can respect about me."
Martin is a rookie who attended Stanford and played for promising collegiate African American head coach David Shaw.
ESPN and The Associated Press Contributed to this report