ORLANDO, Fla. (AP) – In the wake of the Dolphins bullying scandal, Miami coach Joe Philbin has pledged to improve the workplace culture. That includes spending more time in the locker room himself.
“I think the visibility factor could make a difference,” Philbin said Tuesday, adding that while he’s always had a presence “it’s safe to say I’ll do it more.”
An NFL investigation determined Richie Incognito and two other Dolphins offensive linemen engaged in persistent harassment of Jonathan Martin. Incognito, who was suspended after Martin left the team, missed the final eight games last season and became a free agent when his contract with Miami expired.
Philbin said he will encourage players to feel comfortable coming to him to discuss any issues or problems arising within the locker room or the team in general.
The coach suggested one of the reasons some of Martin’s former teammates may have been reluctant to speak out in the past is people generally don’t like being “the bearer of bad news.”
“We have to get away from that,” Philbin said. “It has to be better communication both ways.”
General manager Dennis Hickey said he was encouraged that players still see Miami as an attractive organization, noting the team has re-signed such key players as cornerback Brent Grimes and defensive tackle Randy Starks, and brought in cornerback Cortland Finnegan and tackle Branden Albert, among others.
“Miami is an attractive place and it’s played out as players are wanting to come here,” Hickey said. “They get a sense of the organizations and the coaches and the people in the organization … people with passion and integrity and trust.”
Hickey would not comment on where Incognito might find a job.
PERFORMANCE PAYS OFF: Chicago Bears tackle Jordan Mills was the big winner in the NFL’s performance-based pay program that compensates players for playing time based on salary levels.
The fifth-round draft choice (No. 163 overall) from Louisiana Tech played for the league’s rookie minimum of $405,000 last season, along with a $164,800 signing bonus. He participated in 96 percent of Chicago’s offensive plays and 15 percent of the club’s special teams plays. That earned Mills $318,244 in additional pay.
Next on the bonus list was Bengals linebacker Vontaze Burfict, who got $315,848, followed by Cowboys guard Ronald Leary ($307,104), Bengals safety George Iloka ($281,515), and Rams safety Rodney McLeod ($280,916).
Another player who made out well was Seahawks guard J.R. Sweezy. In addition to a Super Bowl check for $92,000, he got a $258,414 bonus under the performance-based pay program.
Under the program, players will receive $110.72 million for their performances during the 2013 season; the payments will be made on April 1, 2016, in an agreement with the NFL Players Association.
PROMISES, PROMISES: Jets owner Woody Johnson mentioned an interest in Eagles receiver DeSean Jackson by name on Sunday. Coach Rex Ryan and general manager John Idzik weren’t quite so open on Tuesday.
But Ryan promised the Jets are anything but done in adding a wideout to free agent Eric Decker, who left Peyton Manning and the Broncos for New York and Geno Smith.
“I’ll bet you anything we’ll make a move at receiver somewhere,” Ryan said. “I bet we take a shot.”
He admitted that could be in one of the last rounds of May’s draft as well as trading for someone like Jackson, who apparently has been put on the market by Philadelphia.
“Anything is possible,” Ryan said.
Idzik seconded that notion, even as he grinned at Ryan’s near-guarantee.
“I think we’ll add to every position going forward,” Idzik said while refusing to directly respond to Jackson’s availability. “There are a lot of possibilities going forward, at the receiver position as well. It’s not done yet.”
ELDER STATESMAN?: With two of four teams in the AFC South hiring new coaches after last season, Indianapolis’ Chuck Pagano has become the longest-tenured coach with his current team in the division, even though he’s only entering his third season with the Colts.
Jacksonville’s Gus Bradley is preparing for his second season, while Houston’s Bill O’Brien and Tennessee’s Ken Whisenhunt are newcomers to the division.
“Isn’t it funny,” Bradley said. “That’s just kind of the nature of the league at this point.”
DECISIONS, DECISIONS: Cleveland has the fourth overall pick in this spring’s draft, and there’s speculation the Browns are interested in selecting one of the quarterbacks expected to go early in the first round.
First-year coach Mike Pettine said the team, which has other weaknesses in several areas, is keeping its options open.
“At the fourth pick there are going to be some outstanding players available,” Pettine said. “But I also think we are in a position, given where the roster is right now, that if the best player there is a quarterback we’re in a position to take him. And if it’s not, I think it’s a deep enough quarterback class that we could pursue that option later in the draft.”
Pettine said there’s no pressure to find the quarterback of the future.
“I don’t think you want to force it. If that guy’s not there at that pick, I don’t think you take one and force the issue saying this is the quarterback of the future,” Pettine said. “We’re doing our homework on all of these guys. We’re going to log a lot of miles in the next couple of weeks, and hopefully we can find that quarterback that’s going to best serve the Cleveland Browns.”
Houston selects first and Jacksonville goes third; both are in search of a long-term solution at the position, too.
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