Richie Incognito: NFL Bully
NFL Investigative Reporter Jay Stern
The big news out of Miami is the suspension of Dolphin Offensive Tackle Richie Incognito for ‘Conduct Detrimental to the Team’ in connection with his bullying, harassment and intimidation of fellow teammate and lineman Jonathan Martin.
For those unfamiliar with the situation, Jonathan Martin is a highly educated Stanford graduate whose parents are both Harvard graduates and who happens to be black. By contrast, Incognito is a hot-tempered bully who was kicked off his college team — the Nebraska Cornhuskers — for multiple violations including attacking a teammate, and is widely considered the dirtiest player in the NFL.
The alleged misconduct involves Incognito using mafia-like tactics to extort $15,000 from Martin and his fellow lineman to pay for a trip to Las Vegas for Incognito and a few other players. From reports surrounding the now-official NFL investigation, Incognito is coming off no different than the elementary school bully to whom no one wants to stand up and who, through intimidation makes followers out of those who would otherwise fear becoming his target.
Incognito is no stranger to trouble and controversy. In 2004, the Lincoln Journal Star reported that, “Incognito has struggled to control his temper both on and off the field since arriving at Nebraska in 2001.” Rumors of insubordination and temper tantrums surrounded his years at Nebraska, culminating in an incident in which he viciously attacked and beat up his teammate Grant Mulkey.
One report from an eyewitness (as reported on RedOut.com) described the event as follows:
[Nebraska Wideout] Grant Mulkey was talking with fellow teammates about his impending first start. Being excited about his first start he was a little on the emotional side. Incognito walked in and heard and saw Mulkey in a emotional state and started giving him a bad time. As a comeback, Mulkey told Incognito that he’d be playing instead of sitting in the stands watching game. Upon hearing this, Incognito went nuts. He jumped on Mulkey and started to beat the crap out of him. After teammates separated them, Incognito went after Mulkey again. The second attack happened after Incognito approached Mulkey as if to apologize to him. With the two of them being friends, Mulkey had his guard down. The second incident was not so easy. It took ten players to get Incognito off of Mulkey. Upon hearing the about the incident Callahan walk in and immediately Incognito verbally assaulted Callahan and threatened to kick his ass.
Tom Shatel, a reporter with the Omaha World Herald, described Incognito’s situation regarding the Mulkey incident as a “a repeat offender repeating while on suspension,” indicating that Incognito had been involved in multiple incidents within a brief period of time during the 2003-2004 season and describing him as a “good young man with anger issues.” NFL reporter Jeff Darlington described Incognito’s suspension at Nebraska as being the result of fighting not just with a teammate, but with “teammates, opponents and random students.”
If you think Incognito learned his lesson after being suspended indefinitely from Nebraska and transferring to Oregon, you’d be mistaken. After being drafted in the third round by the St. Louis Rams in 2005 (and sitting out his rookie season with an injury), Incgonito quickly gained a reputation as a nasty player: From 2006 through 2009, Incognito drew seven penalties for unsportsmanlike conduct — more than anyone else in the NFL during that span.
The NFL itself, on its own website refers to Incognito as the ‘NFL’s Dirtiest Player’. In the story written by NFL reporter Jeff Darlington, he describes Incognito as having thrived in the NFL despite “a decade of anger management issues and substance abuse.” The same article references an incident in which Incognito was accused of punching a bouncer in the face at a South Beach nightclub. ESPN reporter Adam Schefter reported the incident as follows:
According to the police report, Incognito and a group of friends were trying to get a closer look at an on-stage performer, at which point the security guard asked the group to back up. A member of Incognito’s group then pushed the security guard, which started a fight. Incognito told police he tried to break up the incident. Incognito refused medical treatment for minor facial injuries, according to the report. League sources said Incognito punched and knocked out the security guard (emphasis added), though the police report makes no mention of this.
His substance abuse includes not only a decade of marijuana use but admittedly “[d]rinking. Doing Drugs. Everything a professional athlete should not be doing.” In the same piece, Incognito admits to using the psychotropic anti-depressant drug Paxil to keep his mood swings in check since becoming a Miami Dolphin.
Despite his ongoing efforts to conquer his demons, it appears as though Incognito’s latest incident with Jonathan Martin may be the final straw. After being kicked out of St. Louis and Buffalo, it appears that Incognito has worn out his welcome in Miami. And though, the NFL is known for giving talented players second and third chances, this may be Strike Three for Richie Incognito.
Some non-football fans might read of Incognito’s history of trouble and ponder, ‘How can yet another poor excuse for a human be given so many chances and become a multi-millionaire solely because of his ability to block a 300 lb lineman?’ But that would be overlooking the manner in which high school, college, and NFL coaches and teams routinely make excuses for and bail their players out of trouble in the name of the almighty victory and dollar. Anyone in need of a reference for can simply read the shocking and under-reported story of former NFL Tight End Jerramy Stevens.
For now, Incognito’s actions in the Jonathan Martin incident are under investigation, but if the rumors of racist voicemail messages left for Martin are accurate (and released to the public), it’s safe to say that Incognito has played his last NFL game. Former NFL Vice-President of Player Personnel for the Patriots and former-KC Chiefs General Manager Scott Pioli seems inclined to agree in an interview with ESPN’s Dan Patrick on NBC’s Football Night in America:
Pioli: If [Incognito] is a leader in your locker room, that is a problem, because he has a long history of issues going back to Nebraska, when he was kicked out of school. But, what this shows me is that there is some void of leadership somewhere within the Miami Dolphins locker room, because if there are issues like this, generally the head coach or the general manager is going to know something about this. They’re going to be able to fix the problem before it manifests itself into this disaster they have right now.
Patrick: Would you want Richie Incognito in your locker room?
Pioli: I didn’t want him coming out [of college], and I don’t want him now.
Which might show that the old adage about how to deal with bullies is accurate: If you stand up to a bully, he’ll just go away.