ALAMEDA – Richie Incognito spent the last two weeks at home in Arizona, away from the Raiders team he trained so hard with over the spring and summer.
It wasn’t a pleasant experience, instead a forced exile for violating the NFL’s personal conduct policy. Incognito expected a suspension from the moment he signed with the Raiders in late May.
The left guard pled guilty, after all, to disorderly conduct following a messy incident at an Arizona funeral home shortly after his father’s death.
His two-game ban is over and done now, leaving him ready to start on Sunday at Minnesota. It will be his first game since the 2017 season ended. Incognito chose to retire after three consecutive Pro Bowl seasons with the Buffalo Bills, but found renewed passion for the game he’s able to release with the Raiders.
While Sunday marks his 151st game, it’s a special one he’s looking forward to playing.
“It will be emotional for me and my family,” Incognito said Wednesday. “It has been a long trip to get back here. We’re just checking another box, going down the line. I’m excited for the opportunity.”
It’s the last box to check on his return to the NFL, now free and clear of any punitive actions relating to his well-documented off-field incidents. The biggest came in Miami were he played a prominent role in a Dolphins’ bullying scandal. He had some rough moments in retirement, including the funeral home incident and a dustup at a Florida gym where police were called and he was reportedly placed on an involuntary psychiatric hold.
Incognito has been in therapy for some time now, and is in a good mental and physical state to continue his career.
He can’t wait to get started.
“It’s a big relief. I can just attack going forward,” Incognito said. “The suspension is behind me. All the negative stuff is behind me. My eyes are forward, and I’m staying positive. I’m relishing the opportunity, which I think is big for me. I’m enjoying every day in here, because you don’t know how many more you’ll have. I want to play well for Coach Gruden and Mike Mayock, for Coach Cable and the offensive line after all the hard work we’ve put in. I want to charge forward and make it right.”
Incognito watched the past two Raiders games by himself, analyzing it like a coach. He would watch line play in particular, rewinding his DVR to make sure the line fits were right, and running backs were making proper choices within the scheme.
Now everything happens in real-time, and the offensive line is making sure Incognito’s integrated well upon return. They took extra practice reps Wednesday to aid that intent.
“We’re just trying to get it going,” Incognito said. “I’ve been gone for two weeks and we’re plugging and playing, and it’s good to get back into it. I’m learning [center Rodney Hudson’s] silent count, and there are a lot of different things we’re working on to get all five of us coming together as one to play well.”
He’s thrilled to be back in the fight, especially after watching from a distance for two weeks during the season while serving his NFL-mandated suspension.
“We’re just trying to get it going,” Incognito said. “I’ve been gone for two weeks and we’re plugging and playing, and it’s good to get back into it. I’m learning Rodney’s silent count, and there are a lot of different things we’re working on to get all five of us coming together as one to play well.”