Richie Incognito: Sitting out was hard

ByMike Rodak via ESPN logo
Monday, April 6, 2015
ESPN

ORCHARD PARK, N.Y. -- Beginning offseason conditioning Monday with his new team, Buffalo Bills guard Richie Incognito called his season and a half away from football "humbling" and added that he had learned from the 2013 bullying scandal that led to him being suspended and released by the Miami Dolphins.

"It was definitely difficult sitting out, knowing I could still play, knowing I had talent to contribute," Incognito said Monday. "It was a learning process. At first there was a lot of frustration: 'Why am I not signed? Why am I not on a team?' It was a time for inner reflection. Kind of a time for growth.

"Then it was an acceptance, and accepting the fact that I'm not going to play this year, that I'm going to have to chalk it up and wait for another opportunity."

Incognito expressed regret about the harassment allegations that led to the Dolphins suspending him for the final eight games of the 2013 season.

"There was a lot of things said and done that I wish I could change," he said Monday. "But moving forward, you have to accept that there was definitely a learning process and a growing process and a process that I went through to become a better person. Nobody's perfect. I think the biggest thing is I've learned from what I've went through, I've learned from what went down. I've grown from it."

The Bills signed Incognito, a 2012 Pro Bowl selection, in February after he met with team owners Terry and Kim Pegula.

"I don't want to get into what promises or assurances that I made, but we had a very good, open conversation," Incognito said. "We went back and forth on a lot of issues. They really just wanted to get a feel for me as a person and as a teammate. I think we both left that meeting feeling good about where I was at and where they were at. It was great. It was a great opportunity, and I'm very thankful."

Incognito also met with coach Rex Ryan before joining the team.

"Rex Ryan spent a lot of time talking about being a good teammate and coming in and putting my best foot forward," Incognito said. "One of the big things they wanted to make sure was that I could still be myself without having any of the issues."

Said Ryan on Monday: "I just wanted to see the sincerity that he was speaking with and where he was at. He's got a burning desire to play this game still. I think that's important. And obviously -- hey, look, we've all made mistakes. Every single one of us in here has made mistakes. I know I've made than you guys. But it's what we do and how excited he is about getting a new opportunity, and I can't wait to watch him. But he's a Bill now. He's just one of us."

After taking over as the Bills coach in January, Ryan said he wanted to "build a bully" with his new team but later called himself "the biggest anti-bully guy there is" after his comments and the Bills' signing of Incognito were met with criticism by an anti-bullying group in the region.

"I think that I can use this situation to shed light on a sensitive subject as well as kind of put my best foot forward and show that I have grown and I have learned from the situation," Incognito said. "The spotlight is definitely going to be on me, no doubt. But all I can do is just keep working hard to show that I'm changed and to show that I'm willing to do what it takes to be a productive member of the Buffalo community."

After being reinstated, Incognito spoke to teams last season, but he was not offered a deal.

"There were some dark days where I didn't think I was ever going to play again," he said. "It really just kind of fueled me to work harder. ... [It] kind of forced me to go back and really look at things and say, 'Is this still important to you? Is this still what you want?' And the answer was always a resounding yes.

"So it just made me work harder, personally, in the weight room, off the field -- kind of in all aspects of life. And once the season ended and it kind of got into a normal offseason routine, I felt like an opportunity would come up, and a great opportunity presented itself in Buffalo."

The Bills are retooling their offense with a run-first approach under Ryan and incoming coordinator Greg Roman.

Listed at 6-foot-3 and 319 pounds, Incognito has started each of his 102 career games since being selected in the third round of the 2005 draft by St. Louis. He had a brief term in Buffalo during the 2009 season when the Bills claimed him after he was waived by the Rams.

Defensive tackle Kyle Williams, one of Incognito's teammates during his prior stint with the Bills, has given the 10th-year lineman a warm reception.

"Obviously a good player, and when he was here, he was a fantastic teammate," Williams said Monday. "I wasn't down when all that junk went down in Miami, so I tend to base my opinions on my firsthand experiences with people, and I had a great time with him as a teammate and I'm glad he's here."

The Associated Press contributed to this report.

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