At one point, Richie Incognito didn't know if he'd ever play in the NFL again. To the NFL, he was toxic. The veteran guard was out of football the entire 2014 season, following a bullying controversy in Miami.
The Buffalo Bills took a chance and, this year, he anchored the NFL's No. 1-ranked rushing attack.
Set to his free agency, he'll probably see a big pay day now. After his team's 22-17 win over the New York Jets, he made it clear he wants to stay in Buffalo.
"It's definitely important for me to come back to Buffalo," Incognito said. "I've loved it here. I'm very appreciative for the opportunity to come up here and play. From the get go, Kim and Terry Pegula, Doug Whaley, Rex Ryan and my teammates have accepted me with open arms and made me feel like I'm part of the team. So it's a big priority for me to come back."
Of course, left tackle Cordy Glenn will be a free agent, too. Asked about taking a "hometown discount," Incognito referred a reporter to his agent. The Bills have many, many financial decisions to make this off-season. After one the franchise's best rushing seasons ever, general manager Doug Whaley might look to prioritize the continuity on the offensive line. Buffalo's offense was at its best running to Incognito's side and throwing deep to Sammy Watkins this season.
There's no doubting Incognito put himself in prime position for a big deal, even at 32 years old.
"I'm in a very good position right now moving forward contractually and financially," Incognito said. "I held up my end of the bargain. I played really well. I played at a high level. I played the best football of my career, so that stuff takes care of itself. I have people who handle that on the business end. Now, it's time for them to go to work."
Sunday was a slog for the Bills' running game. Already down LeSean McCoy (knee), the team lost Karlos Williams to a knee injury and would gain 113 yards on 43 attempts (2.6 avg.). Mike Gillislee mustered just 28 yards on 24 carries. But overall, the ground and pound eventually hit its stride in Buffalo albeit through an 8-8 year.
Incognito called these past couple years "a humbling experience," a "whirlwind."
"Adversity brings out the best in all of us," Incognito said, "and I think I put my best foot forward.
"It taught me a lot about myself and it taught me about just being humble and not taking anything for granted about being a professional athlete. It taught me to approach each day with a fresh, positive attitude and to attack the day. I'm just real appreciative of the opportunity the Buffalo Bills gave me."