Richie Incognito is back in the NFL. His re-emergence following a year off and multiple off-field incidents once again exposes the league’s continued acceptance of unstable and troubled — as long as they are talented — players.
The Oakland Raiders reportedly signed the controversial offensive guard to a one-year deal for the 2019 season.
The big picture: Incognito has a long history of troubling behavior that has cropped up both on and off the field.
Tumultuous year: Just in 2018 alone, Incognito engaged in multiple incidents that seem to illustrate he is dealing with issues that could potentially be exasperated all the more by another round of banging around in the trenches of NFL warfare.
- Trouble brewing: The Buffalo Bills cut Incognito before last season after he said he was retiring (citing stress while saying his liver and kidneys were shutting down), complained about his contract, then swiftly changed gears and said he was excited about showing up for practice.
- Frightening display of rage: In May of last year, Incognito flew into a rage at a Florida gym. He was arrested after throwing a dumbbell at a man during an altercation. Following the arrest, the Pro Bowler was placed on an involuntary psychiatric hold to be evaluated..
- More alarm bells: After Buffalo cut Incognito, Minnesota Vikings head coach Mike Zimmer made it clear he wasn’t interested in signing the guard. That prompted Incognito to blast Zimmer with a profanity-laced message on Twitter.
- Threats of violence: Following the death of his father, Incognito was arrested and charged with disorderly conduct and threats at a funeral home. Police found six different guns in his truck, along with a handgun silencer, after being accused of threatening to shoot employees at the funeral home. Incognito would later plead guilty after cutting a deal with prosecutors to avoid jail time.
All that happened in less than one full calendar year. Incognito’s plea deal with prosecutors wasn’t finalized until April of this year. Less than two months later, and he’s already signed with an NFL team.
- Early warning signs: This doesn’t even take into account the bullying scandal that Incognito was involved with. He was suspended indefinitely by the Miami Dolphins in 2013 after his actions prompted Jonathan Martin to leave the team. Following that, Incognito was out of the league for the entire 2014 season
The problem: Incognito’s actions demonstrate he is dealing with significant, deep-seated issues. The last thing he needs is another season of helmet-to-helmet head banging in the trenches with the Raiders.
The NFL says it is serious about helping players navigate through stress with tentative plans to add mental health professionals to every locker room. That plan is not yet in effect, however.
The fact that Richie Incognito is right back in the league after displaying so much instability over the course of such a short period of time shows the NFL has a long way to go on this front.