Richie Incognito has lived up to his last name since signing with the Buffalo Bills in February.
That’s exactly what the team and player want.
Incognito spoke to the Western New York media for just the second time Wednesday, following the second day of the Buffalo Bills’ mandatory minicamp.
“The goal is really just kind of assimilate to the team as fast as possible,” Incognito said. “It’s been a nice spring; just come up here and really concentrate on football. Really … get back into a good rhythm.”
Incognito understandably will have an increased level of scrutiny on every move he makes given his tumultuous history. He was asked Wednesday whether he feels like he’s changed after more than a year and a half away from football.
“You know, it’s six one way, half dozen the other,” he said. “I’ve definitely grown, definitely matured. I definitely did take some steps forward. But, you know, I think what this whole thing was, it really just shook me down to my core values, and really just kind of” made me think about “the kind of man I am.”
Just what kind of man that is was brought into serious question following Incognito’s lengthy list of transgressions dating back to his college days. He’s been out of football since the middle of the 2013 season for his role in a bullying scandal with the Miami Dolphins that centered on the treatment of teammate Jonathan Martin.
Bills coach Rex Ryan famously said during his introductory news conference that he wants to “build a bully” – words he’s since walked back – but the point remains: Incognito fits the mold of the type of player Ryan likes.
The challenge for Incognito will be not crossing that fine line from physical to reckless.
“We want to be a physical football team,” he said. “We want to pound people. We want to get on people for four quarters, and you’ve really got to press the issue but you’ve got to know when to pull it back.
“You always want to be right up to that line, if not a little bit across it. … It’s something that I’ve explored heavily throughout my career. I’ve been on both sides of it. So hopefully my energy is contagious and my physical style of play rubs off on the guys around me.”
Incognito has been working with the starters at left guard this offseason, and seems to have largely solidified that spot. Coach Rex Ryan said last week the ninth-year veteran has been doing an “outstanding job.”
Incognito has started all 102 of his career games in the NFL.
“Taking a year off, I spent the whole time training and staying prepared, so when I did have the opportunity to come back that I would be ready to play,” he said. “I was expecting to be a lot more rusty than I was. We came out here the first couple of days. It was nice that we’re all learning a new system so we’re all kind of starting from square one, but I think of where I left off as a player and hopefully getting better each day.”
Incognito has been part of a starting offensive line at minicamp that also includes center Eric Wood, rookie right guard John Miller, left tackle Cordy Glenn and right tackle Cyrus Kouandjio.
“Things are coming together quite nicely for us,” Incognito said. “We’ve been installing a lot of plays.”
Incognito described offensive coordinator Greg Roman’s playbook as “very extensive, very broad and very in-depth.”
“It’s a lot of plays, a lot of terminology, a lot of new stuff,” he said. “What’s nice is we’re all learning it together, so we’re all kind of coming together as a group. We’ve got a long ways to go.
“Right now we’re just preaching good technique. We’re all learning the new technique, new terminology. So we’re all trying to speak the same language first, but we’re really just trying to learn technique. We’re all trying to step with the proper foot placement, proper hand placement, things like that. We’re really at the building blocks right now.”
The true test of how far along the offensive line really is won’t come until the team reports to training camp and practices in pads. Wednesday was not a good day for them, either, with the Bills’ defense registering an unofficial eight would-be sacks.
Of course, the Bills might have the best defensive line in the NFL, which should in turn help the team’s offensive line.
“They’re hands-down the best D-line that we’re going to play all season long, and we play them every single day,” Incognito said. “That definitely helps get us better. If we can block them, we can block anybody.”