One Team’s Trash Can Be Another Team’s Treasure: Deep Thoughts on Richie Incognito – Part 2
As I noted last time, Richie Incognito is no saint, but if we compare him to…
Aaron Hernandez (25-years old), former tight-end for the New England Patriots, is currently standing trial for murder.
Sam Hurd (29-years old), former wide receiver for the Chicago Bears, was sentenced to 15 years after being convicted on federal drug-trafficking charges.
Darren Sharper (39-years old), retired New Orleans Safety and analyst for the NFL network, is currently awaiting arraignment on drug distribution charges, the drugging and rape of 3 women in New Orleans in 2013 and a rape charge in Arizona.
Suddenly, Incognito’s bullish frat-boy behavior doesn’t seem so bad. But, his bad boy behavior should not be marginalized. Incognito’s behavior was still a bane towards the people he harassed.
Who is the real Richie Incognito?
In 2012, NFL.com did an in-depth interview with Richie Incognito. The article showed a softer and troubled side of the NFL guard that was seeking peace. It showed a remorseful Incognito, talking about his past and current troubles and how he’s trying to find a balance.
“I’ve made a lot of mistakes. I’ve made a ton of mistakes. And, I was really hard on myself, and I’ve learned from them. I’ve used those mistakes to motivate me and to take me to new heights.”
It’s now 2015.
Incognito, has again made remorseful statements insisting that he’s learned from his past mistakes.
In part one, we speculated on the sincerity of Incognito “the man.” In part two, we’ll take a look at his troubled start and how he got to where he is today.
Bullies aren’t Born
You might not be able to tell from this smiling picture, but Richie Incognito had been tormented as a child, constantly bullied for being ‘heavy,’ (and you thought girls were mean). It’s only natural that he would be filled with anger and resentment. As a child, football gave him a place to express that aggression into something productive.
And thus, Richie Incognito the NFL guard was created, mistaking his infamy for fame and his antics for popularity.
We all want to fit-in and belong. Football created that environment for Incognito. And Incognito felt he thrived in that environment:
“Football gave me confidence and something to put my energy into.”
In football, Incognito’s size became an advantage. Coaches liked his aggression on the field. Kids facing him didn’t stand a chance.
On the Inside Looking Out
In high school, Incognito’s talent made him an All-American offensive linesman, a finalist for the 2000 Arizona Player of the Year Award and earned him the Frank Kush Award, given to the best offensive linesman in Arizona. Interestingly, in parallel to all that, Incognito was also voted ‘Most likely to Hurt Feelings’ by Englewood High in 2001.
Although, Incognito has not discussed his high school years, I imagine him enjoying (a little too much) the traditions of locker room hazing – slapping underclassmen with coiled wet towels and hiding their cloths so they’d have nothing to wear to the next period.
Besides, wasn’t that what our teenage years were all about – fitting in?
Incognito’s college career started on an ‘up-swing,’ becoming the Nebraska Huskers first freshman offensive linesman to start the season opener. The talent was soon over-shadowed by his on-and-off the field problems. Coaches were so concerned, Incognito was placed into an anger management program.
As you can guess, the treatment didn’t work.
In September 2004, the University of Nebraska had enough of Incognito’s “issues” and asked him (probably not so nicely) to leave after a locker room fight.
In October 2004, Incognito transferred to Oregon. A week later, Incognito was kicked off the team for violating the conditions set forth for him to be admitted into the program.
I can list a long history of fights and behavioral problems during his college years, but why? I’ll just leave it to your imagination, I think you get the gist.
Off the field it was becoming a problem, but on the field his focused aggression was effective. Incognito finished his freshman years with 171 knock-down blocks (also known as pancakes) in a regular season. The Nebraska Huskers finished forth in rushing offense, averaging 268.7 yards in 2002. Pancake blocks were not recorded in Nebraska’s 2003 season, but Incognito was credited for greatly contributing to the Huskers rushing offense of 235.6 yards per game, ranking 7th nationally.
Into the Big Time
Regardless of his past behavioral problems, Incognito was drafted by the St. Louis Rams in the 3rd round of the 2005 NFL draft. After a laundry list of fines, onfield penalties (38 penalties, including 7 unnecessary roughness calls in 4-seasons), injuries and suspensions, Incognito was released.
In 2009, Incognito was claimed off waivers for the remainder of his contract by the Buffalo Bills. The Bills decided not to re-sign the offensive linesman at the end of the season. The Miami Dolphins signed Incognito in 2010. He remained with the team until his suspension for the ‘Bullying Scandal.’
The ironic kicker about the scandal was that Richie Incognito did a PSA for the Miami Dolphins on fan behavior.
So, where did it go wrong?
In the 2012 NFL.com interview, Incognito admitted to excessive use of alcohol and drugs to deal with difficult times and stress. He understood it wasn’t the way to deal with his problems and looked into other outlets like meditation.
Regardless of his efforts, Incognito has continued to find trouble.
Rex Knows Best?
So why is it, in the face of all this, did Rex Ryan want to sign Incognito as one of his first acts as the head coach of the Buffalo Bills?
In October of 2014, Terry and Kim Pegula (owners of the NHL team Buffalo Sabres) bought the Buffalo Bills for $1.4 Billion. And like all investments of this type, they need wins to fill seats and sell merchandise.
In 2014, the Buffalo Bills allowed 39 sacks, which was 15th in the NFL (just inside the bottom half). With the likes of EJ Manuel, they’ll need as much help as they can get. Sammy Watkins became a great outside threat, but it will be impossible for EJ Manuel to get him the ball behind a sub par offensive line, which is where Incognito can make the greatest impact.
And that’s what Rex Ryan was faced with. He had the challenge of building an offensive line that allowed the limited available talent in Buffalo to improve from a disappointing 2014. Whether Incognito was sincere or not, if he returns to pro bowl form, he could be exactly what Ryan is looking for. And besides, if Incognito hasn’t changed his ways, or hasn’t retained his pro bowl form, there’s no requirement that he remain on the roster when the regular season begins.
The Big Question
Since Incognito’s release in March from the Arizona Psychiatric Unit, he’s been living by his name sake and remaining under the radar. But, can Richie Incognito still be an effective aggressive offensive lineman on the field when he’s under the microscope regarding his activities off the field?
In all honesty, we all get a little excited when we see helmets flying off, punches being thrown and yellow penalty flags leaving the referees waist bands and gracefully flying into the air (don’t lie, I know you do). But that’s on the field. Off the field we have another standard.
Those that support him will be cheering him on. Everyone else will be waiting for Incognito to fail. Which one are you?
There’s no evidence of Incognito being a changed man. The lack of antics is a step in the right direction, but I’m certain the Bills wouldn’t have signed Incognito if he was caught by TMZ, again.
So, is it worth the risk for the Buffalo Bills? Only time will tell.