ALAMEDA, Calif. — Richie Incognito spent his two-game suspension at home in Arizona around family and friends as he worked out and prepared for his debut with the Oakland Raiders this weekend at the Minnesota Vikings.
“For me and my family, it’s been a long trip for me to get back here,” the oft-troubled left guard, who signed a one-year, “prove-it” deal with Oakland in May after taking the 2018 season off, said Wednesday.
“To go through spring and then training camp with these guys and then go sit on the bench and watch them, it gives you a different perspective. It really makes you appreciate it that much more.”
With a list of off-the-field transgressions as long as his on-field accolades, Incognito last suited up for an NFL game on Dec. 3, 2017, as a member of the Buffalo Bills. A one-year retirement ensued and then the Raiders, by way of coach Jon Gruden and general manager Mike Mayock, came calling this May, knowing full well that a league-mandated suspension for violating the league’s personal conduct policy was looming.
Incognito, a four-time Pro Bowler who was also once voted the league’s dirtiest player by peers, pleaded guilty in April to two misdemeanors after an incident involving his 90-year-old grandmother that took place last August in Peoria, Arizona.
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Ordered to take 10 weekly anger-management sessions and pay a $569 fine, Incognito was also was given one year of unsupervised probation per terms of the agreement. He was ordered to stay away from his grandmother’s home, stay on his medication, avoid alcohol, not possess firearms and write a letter of apology. He also pleaded guilty to a misdemeanor disorderly conduct charge stemming from an arrest last August in Scottsdale, Arizona. Two days after the fight with his grandmother, Incognito was arrested after making threats at a funeral home where his father’s body was being held.
Plus, Incognito was at the center of a 2013 investigation into the bullying of Miami Dolphins teammate Jonathan Martin, which led to a suspension for Incognito. He did not play football in 2014.
Incognito, 36, said it was a “big relief” to have a clean slate with time served, so to speak. Especially after being allowed to participate in the Raiders’ offseason program, training camp and exhibition games before being sent off.
“I just attack,” he said. “Attack, going forward. The suspension’s behind me, all the negative stuff is behind me. Just eyes forward, staying positive, relishing the opportunity. What I think is big is really enjoying every day in here because you don’t know how many more you’re going to have, and wanting to play well.
“Wanting to play well for Coach Gruden and Mike Mayock, for [offensive line] coach [Tom] Cable, for the rest of the offensive line for all the hard work we’ve put in. Really just want to charge forward and make it right.”
Gruden said Wednesday’s practice was scaled back in part because of the rash of injuries the team is dealing with in the wake of last week’s 28-10 loss to the Kansas City Chiefs (among those offensive starters either sitting out or being limited included rookie running back Josh Jacobs, receiver Tyrell Williams and right tackle Trent Brown).
But there was a benefit as far as Incognito was concerned.
“We increased the reps,” Gruden said. “We increased the communication opportunities for Richie to get wired back in and all indications are good. He looked good today.”
Incognito figures to slide in at left guard and replace Jordan Devey, who started the Raiders’ first two games.
And quarterback Derek Carr is fine with that notion.
“It’s huge, man,” Carr said. “He’s a Pro Bowl offensive lineman. Any quarterback would be excited about that. That just shows you the depth that we’ve had, man. You watch Denzelle [Good] play [at right guard], you watch [Jordan] Devey play, they’ve been solid players. So, you just add another guy on top of that and then [right guard] Gabe [Jackson] will come back after him, which is crazy, right?
“So we just have a lot of depth and that’s a good thing, especially when you play quarterback.”
Incognito, meanwhile, says he does not think it will take long for him to get back in the groove, despite having missed a full season plus two games.
“I’ve played a lot of football in this league, so I don’t really anticipate it being an issue, made a lot of starts,” he said. “It’s pretty much all systems go, go out there lay it on the line. Probably be tired, probably be a little out of shape, but working back in shape and playing with these guys will give me enough energy to get through.
“I’m just hoping to come back and add some nasty edge to that group, get after some people, put some people on the ground and get Josh [Jacobs] going.”