DAVIE (CBSMiami) – His name may be Incognito, but Miami Dolphins left guard Richie Incognito has never been far from the headlines throughout his long, and often times troubled, football career.
Incognito was an All-America offensive linemen while playing on both sides of the ball in Glendale, Arizona. His prowess on the football field attracted collegiate offers from across the country including the University of Miami. Incognito eventually settled on attending the University of Nebraska.
Incognito redshirted his first year as a Cornhusker in 2001. The next season he played in all 14 of the Huskers’ game at left tackle and started every game except for a game against Iowa State where he sat out the first half.
But he didn’t sit out the first half due to injury. While playing against the Penn State Nittany Lions the week before, he was ejected from the game for fighting. He was forced to ride the bench for the first half of the next game as punishment for being ejected.
Incognito was suspended by then-Nebraska head coach Frank Solich for unspecified reasons in the spring of 2003. Solich later re-instated Incognito who would go on to start every game that season.
Things began to completely unravel for Incognito in 2004. In February 2004, Incognito was charged with three counts of assault after a fight at a party, according to USAToday.com. He was later found guilty of one misdemeanor assault charge after a three-day trial, another charge was dismissed and he was found innocent on the third charge.
He was suspended from the football team for repeated violations of team rules on September 1, 2004 and withdrew from all classes at Nebraska within a few weeks, according to USAToday.com.
Incognito transferred to the University of Oregon and then-Ducks head coach Mike Bellotti spelled out specific conditions the offensive lineman had to meet. Incognito never practiced for Oregon and was cut for not meeting the conditions laid out for him.
The former Cornhusker lineman would go to the NFL Combine in 2005 and reportedly tested well on the physical measurable. However, several teams put up red flags with Incognito and placed him on the Do Not Draft list in the team facilities, according to former NFL head coach Tony Dungy and executive Scott Pioli.
The St. Louis Rams took Incognito with the 81st pick in the draft, (3rd round), and he spent the season on the non-football injury list. Inncgonito would go on to start the entire season in 2006 and started 15 games at right guard in 2008.
But things in St. Louis for Incognito were never without drama. In a 2008 game against the Washington Redskins, Incognito was flagged for two unsportsmanlike conduct penalties, both for fighting. At one point in the game, then-head coach Jim Haslett reportedly asked, “What is wrong with this *expletive*.”
In another game against the Chicago Bears, Incognito mocked Rams fans and embarrassed the organization, but was not fined by Haslett. After the incident, a St. Louis Post-Dispatch columnist said no one in the organization would deal with Incognito’s actions.
“No one – repeat, no one – in the Rams organization has the stomach to confront this tool with a benching or suspension,” wrote Bernie Miklasz of the Post-Dispatch.
Still, Incognito’s athletics helped keep him employed and he re-signed with the Rams in 2009. He was eventually cut on December 15 after multiple personal foul penalties for headbutting two Tennessee Titans players and fighting with then-head coach Steve Spagnuolo during a game.
During his time in St. Louis, Incognito was fined a total of $85,000 by the league for the following reasons: chop block in 2008, face mask in 2008, verbal or other non-physical offense against an official in 2008; and striking/kicking/kneeing in 2009.
Incognito was a free agent after the 2009 season and the Dolphins signed the left guard to a free agent deal. Incognito was named the dirtiest player in the game by fellow players before landing in Miami and as recently as 2012 was still ranked number two on the list.
Incognito never shied away from the label of being a dirty player.
“I think I was at No. 6 last year,” Incognito told CBS4 news partner the Miami Herald in 2012. “No personal fouls, no major penalties, no fines or anything like that and I move back up to No. 2. It’s a badge of honor for an offensive lineman to be up that high. It definitely plays on a defender’s mind. It’s always on his mind that ‘Hey, this guy is going to get after you for four quarters.’ ”
Through his time with the Dolphins, Incognito was perceived to be acting more like an adult and controlling his temper. He incurred only one fine from the NFL during his time in Miami and that was in 2012 for a late hit. The NFL fined Incognito $10,000 for the incident last year.
There were some problems for Incognito in Miami. Last season, Houston Texans defensive end Antonio Smith accused Incognito of trying to break his ankle. The play was a fumble and Smith alleged Incognito was holding on and turning his ankle during and after the play.
Incognito said at the time he thought Smith was kicking him and that he “was trying to protect myself.”
Smith and Incognito would be involved in another incident in 2013 when Smith ripped off the Dolphins guard’s helmet and swung it at his face. Incognito was praised for stepping away from the situation.
The Dolphins believed in Incognito and he started on the offensive line throughout his career in Miami. The Fins actually gave Incognito a position on the team’s leadership council which typically handles player issues in the locker room and communicates them with the head coach.
Incognito was the subject of a wide-ranging interview and profile with Jeff Darlington of NFL.com before the season. During the interview, he admitted to past marijuana use, anger issues, taking medication to help deal with the anger and trying to find a new beginning in Miami.
“I placed blame anywhere blame could be placed. It was a coward’s way out,” Incognito told NFL.com.
The offensive guard also said that he got to a better place by using methods he learned from former Miami Dolphins running back Ricky Williams.
“I had a decade that was just a complete mess, and now I have four years of clarity,” Incognito told NFL.com. “And I wake up every day just striving to keep going. I know where the path is now. I see the path. And it’s my job to stay on that path. There are so many people who have really helped get me here. I don’t want to disappoint them. And I don’t want to disappoint myself.”
Things turned ugly for the Dolphins, offensive tackle Jonathan Martin and Incognito in the past week. Martin left the team amidst allegations of bullying and Incognito’s name began to surface as one of the instigators.
The Dolphins denied any knowledge of the bullying Sunday morning and Incognito went on a Twitter rant against ESPN and reporter Adam Schefter for linking him with the Martin bullying story.
Late Sunday night Incognito was indefinitely suspended by the Dolphins and the team began an investigation and asked the NFL to begin an independent investigation.
Throughout the day Monday, more details came to light via CBSSports.com’s Jason LaCanfora and other reporters. The reports said there were text messages and voice mails that Martin had saved that detailed racial taunts and physical threats.
One text message read:
“Hey, wassup, you half (expletive) piece of (expletive),” Incognito said in the voicemail. “I saw you on Twitter, you been training ten weeks. I’ll (expletive) in you (expletive) mouth. I’m gonna slap your (expletive) mouth, I’m gonna slap your real mother across the face (laughter). (Expletive) you, you’re still a rookie. I’ll kill you.” (via CBSSports.com)
Incognito’s days with the Dolphins appear to be over as the allegations continue to come forward against him. What happens to him with the NFL and the possibility of him staying in the NFL will not be known for some time.