Miami Dolphins guard Richie Incognito (68), second from left,  and tackle Jonathan Martin (71), third from left, sit on the bench in the second half of an NFL football game against the New Orleans Saints in New Orleans. (Sept. 30, 2013)

Miami Dolphins guard Richie Incognito (68), second from left, and tackle Jonathan Martin (71), third from left, sit on the bench in the second half of an NFL football game against the New Orleans Saints in New Orleans. (Sept. 30, 2013)

*In the ongoing saga involving Miami Dolphins players Richie Incognito and Jonathan Martin, a report Wednesday night from Pro Football Talk claims the team’s general manager Jeff Ireland suggested Martin physically confront Incognito — even saying he should “punch” him — as a means of dealing with how Incognito was treating him.

According to the report, which cited multiple league sources, Martin’s agent, Rick Smith, called Ireland before his client left the team Oct. 28 and complained about the manner in which the second-year player was being treated by Incognito. In response, Ireland suggested Martin respond to Incognito physically and specifically mentioned that he should “punch” the veteran guard, the sources told Pro Football Talk.

Martin left the Dolphins last week after claims of harassment and misconduct by teammates. He reportedly checked himself in for a brief stay a South Florida hospital to be treated for emotional distress. The alleged harassment reportedly included racial epithets and profane language toward Martin on multiple occasions. In a transcript of a voice mail message from April, Incognito referred to Martin as a “half n—– piece of s—.”

The 6-foot-3, 319-pound Incognito, a ninth-year pro, is white. The 6-foot-5, 312-pound Martin is biracial.

Reps for Martin have turned over evidence of harassment to the Dolphins, the NFL and the NFL Players Association. Attorney Ted Wells has been appointed by commissioner Roger Goodell to direct an independent investigation into the Dolphins’ workplace conduct. That report will be made public.

ryan tannehill

Miami Dolphins quarterback Ryan Tennehill speaks to the media about Richie Incognito and Jonathan Martin (Nov. 6, 2013)

Meanwhile, some Dolphins players, though aware of the contents in the voice mail, came out to defend Incognito against claims that he is racist and intended to harm Martin.

“If I’m not mistaken, this is the same guy [Martin] who was laughing about this voice mail at one point and time, first of all,” Dolphins receiver Brian Hartline explained. “Second of all, I believe that, if you go through the whole voice mail, there’s some things said that you probably shouldn’t say in general, friends or not friends. But I know for a fact that I’ve said things to my friends that I kind of wish I never said, either.

“With that being said, I never thought it was a death threat. I never thought he was actually going to do the things he said. If you can’t take validity from one part of the voice mail, how do you take validity from the whole voice mail? You can’t pick and choose what parts count and which parts don’t count.”

Asked to clarify if Martin laughed at the voice mail, Hartline hedged.

“I just remember it was being passed around at one point as a joke. I could be mistaken.”

Other Dolphins players described Incognito and Martin as good friends. Quarterback Ryan Tannehill even described Martin as a protégé of Incognito’s.

“Richie said, ‘Jonathan is like my little brother,'” Tannehill said of a past conversation. “I think that’s an accurate depiction. He gave him a hard time. He messed with him. But he was the first one there to have his back in any situation.”

MIami Dolphins player Bryant McKinnie

MIami Dolphins left tackle Bryant McKinnie

Added left tackle Bryant McKinnie, who joined the Dolphins last month: “I thought they were friends. They looked like friends to me. I never seen any tension or anything. I didn’t see this coming.

“The only person who got [punished] was Richie. The other guy, that was his option. He had a choice what he wanted to do. Richie didn’t really have a choice.”

The Dolphins suspended Incognito, a free agent after this season, indefinitely on Sunday for conduct detrimental to the team. The Miami Herald reported Monday that the Dolphins plan to cut ties with the player.

“What’s been bothering me is kind of things that you hear from outside this locker room about things that maybe undermine the integrity or the leadership or the type of players and the class of guys that we have here and the class of this organization,” defensive end Cameron Wake said. “I’ve been here five years and coach [Joe] Philbin has done nothing but turn this organization in a positive direction from top to bottom.”

As for Martin, some Dolphins players were asked if he can return to the team’s locker room.

Several players declined to answer that question on Wednesday — almost out of spite.

Martin, a 2012 second-round pick, has two years left on his contract. Martin wants to continue playing football, according to three people who know and have spoken to the player, ESPN NFL Insider Adam Schefter reported.

Sources told ESPN that the NFLPA is calling for a meeting with the agents for Martin and Incognito to discuss how the controversy is damaging both players.

Martin, meanwhile, remains in California, preparing a detailed document for his cooperation with the league’s investigation into a string of alleged multiple incidents he says led to his emotional distress and exit from the team, sources said.