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Rex Ryan thinks Richie Incognito can be a “gentleman” off the field

Rex Ryan

Rex Ryan addresses the media at an NFL football news conference after he was introduced as the new head coach of the Buffalo Bills Wednesday, Jan. 14, 2015, in Orchard Park, N.Y. (AP Photo/Bill Wippert)


Bills head coach Rex Ryan knows there are plenty of people wondering why he was so quick to sign guard Richie Incognito.

But while saying he takes the bullying situation seriously, Ryan admitted that the reason Incognito is in Buffalo is because he’s good at playing football.

Appearing on WGR 550 this morning, Ryan said that after the team sat down with Incognito, he was comfortable with giving the former Dolphins guard his latest second chance.

Needless to say we feel very good about him moving forward, and he does too,” Ryan said. “He knows, he recognizes that he has made some mistakes, obviously in the past. He wants to prove now that he is not that person any more. I feel great about it.

“One thing you can’t take away from him is the guy’s an outstanding football player. There’s no question. He was a Pro Bowl guard, and then he had this happen. I’m not making an excuse for him, but the fact he’s an outstanding player, that was what really interested me. Now let’s see the other thing. Because quite honestly, if he’s not going to be a changed person, we wouldn’t have him on this team.”

Of course, Ryan invited much of this scrutiny on himself by saying he wanted to “build a bully” and then signed one. But he said that line is as much a reference to the style he wants to play, comparing it to hockey’s Philadelphia Flyers.

“I’m anti-bully. I’m about the biggest anti-bullying guy there is, especially in the locker room and in the community,” Ryan said. “When I mentioned building a bully, it’s funny, because the old like Flyers, the Broad Street Bullies.

“We want to have a mean, physical football team on the field, but we want to be gentleman off it. And I believe Richie will be that.”

The signing came under immediate scrutiny from anti-bullying activists in Buffalo, but Ryan pleaded for fans to be open-minded with Incognito moving forward.

“I never went in thinking I could change anybody, the young man has to change himself,” he said. “I also recognize this, there’s not one perfect person in that locker room. As good a people are there in in that locker room or anyplace else in society, nobody’s perfect. And Richie won’t be perfect when he’s here.

“But I believe the bullying is a thing of the past, I don’t think there’s any doubt about that. I think he’s learned. Again the proof will be in the pudding, and I recognize people will judge him for what’s happened in the past and not give him a second chance, I understand that. But the majority of people in our community I think are going to be like, ‘Let’s take a wait and see approach,” and I think that’s what Richie wants.”

He’s getting a chance, for a guy who is obviously passionate about his chances.

But if Incognito falls back into old patterns of behavior, the fact he’s good at being a bully on the field will cease to matter.