Though the NFL's investigation of bullying accusations in the Miami Dolphins' locker room is not complete, the Dolphins will have to make a major decision regarding suspended OL Richie Incognito on Monday.
Under NFL rules, teams can suspend a player for a maximum of six weeks, and Monday marks the six-week threshold for Incognito's suspension. The team suspended him indefinitely on November 4. Having played without him for six games, the Dolphins must either reinstate Incognito, cut him, or reach an agreement with him that allows the team to pay him without seeing him rejoin the team.
Fox Sports reported Sunday that the Dolphins will opt for the third route for the remainder of the season. It is not clear whether Incognito will accept this situation however, which he would need to do under the league's labor agreement.
If he forces the Dolphins' hands, it is unclear whether owner Stephen Ross would be willing to cut him before the league reports the findings of its investigation into bullying in the Dolphins' locker room.
Incognito was suspended after teammate Jonathan Martin informed the team that he had been sent racially charged text messages and voicemails from Incognito. Martin has not been with the Dolphins since he left the team in late October following a lunchroom prank gone awry.
The NFL has been investigating Martin's accusations for a month, having interviewed players, coaches, and staff in addition to Martin and Incognito themselves. Ross has vowed to instill a more professional culture on the team, appointing a special panel to create a new franchise code of conduct.
The investigation could result in a major shakeup on the team, especially if it corroborates reports that Dolphins coaches ordered Incognito to "toughen up" Martin or that general manager Jeff Ireland told Martin's agent that he should physically retaliate against Incognito when told about bullying on the team.
But with regards to Incognito's status, the Dolphins must contend with the fact that they have gone 4-2 since suspending Incognito, and reinstating him might not be worth the potential disruption and media circus while the team is chasing a playoff berth.
The Dolphins improved to 8-6 with a win over the New England Patriots Sunday, and would make the playoffs if they win their remaining two regular season games.