Four years ago, Richie Incognito didn’t have an NFL team. After being villainized in an infamous bullying “scandal” in Miami following the 2013 season, he was blackballed, spending all of 2014 as a free agent. With some unsavory words exchanged between he and former teammate, Jonathan Martin, it seemed that his career had come to an end.
After further investigation by the league, including the release of several text conversations between the two men, it appeared that some of the allegations may have been exaggerated. One calendar year after his three-month suspension ended, Incognito got his second chance, signing a one-year contract with the Buffalo Bills.
Unbeknownst to many fans outside of Western New York, the deal marked the beginning of his second stint at One Bills Drive. In 2009, Incognito played the final three games of the season in Buffalo after the team claimed him off of the waiver wire from St. Louis. At the conclusion of the season, the Bills elected not to sign him to his RFA tender, allowing him to become a free agent.
Nobody could have guessed just how well Incognito would perform after not playing for so long. He stormed back into the NFL ranks with a vengeance, paving the way for Lesean McCoy on the right side of the line. Not only did he earn himself a trip to his second career Pro-Bowl following the 2015 season, the nine-year veteran was named to the league’s top-100 players list, ranked 97th by his peers. As if those accolades weren’t enough, he was also rated as the second-best guard in the NFL that year by Pro Football Focus.
Following his outstanding campaign, the Bills rewarded Incognito with a three-year contract extension worth $15.75 million. He made good on the team’s commitment to him, earning two more trips to the Pro Bowl in 2016 and again in 2017 where he played an integral role in helping Buffalo snap a league-worst,17-year playoff drought.
Much to the dismay of Bills fans everywhere, the 34-year-old announced his retirement this week, citing medical complications as the reason.
— NFL on ESPN (@ESPNNFL) April 10, 2018
After Incognito’s retirement was made public, McCoy took to social media, offering his right-gap stalwart $300K of his own money to return for another season (with the caveat that McCoy must rush for at least 1,500 yards). Financial incentive aside, Incognito isn’t likely to change his decision. Health comes first, and he needs to think about life after football.
His exit leaves a gaping hole on an offensive line that was already in need of reinforcement, particularly on the right side. Not only is the team losing a valuable starter, but a leader as well. Following an ugly saga that nearly derailed his career, he did everything the right way in order to get himself back on track.
Though the ordeal with the Dolphins was likely overblown, he still took it upon himself to go to therapy, and learn from what happened. He showed people everywhere that personalities can change, and with hard work and dedication, reputations can too.
Throughout his time in Buffalo, he was nothing but a model citizen, teammate, and representative of this proud franchise. In three years he successfully embodied everything that Buffalo football represents; perseverance, tenacity, and overcoming seemingly insurmountable odds. For that, Bills fans are forever grateful and will carry a special place in their hearts for number 64.
Thank you, Richie.
Editor’s babble: Having been a practicing psychotherapist for many years, I was highly impressed with Mr. Incognito’s dedication to psychotherapy and the turnaround he made in his life over the last few years. We wish him nothing but the best as he moves on to his next adventure. Thanks to Anthony Sciandra for this touching tribute. You can find Anthony on Twitter @SciandraSports.