1. Maybe, when nobody’s looking, Richie Incognito is still the same. Maybe he didn’t learn a thing from his time in Miami. Maybe those terrible text messages he sent to former teammate Jonathan Martin are a window into the soul of a hateful person.
Or, maybe, Incognito’s story is one of redemption. Truthfully, I don’t know. As a reporter, I do get more access to players, but to suggest that I know them on a truly personal level would be false. Players are understandably more guarded when reporters are in the locker room, which is their sacred space. They’re worried about saying something that will become a negative story. Some of them are open about their distrust of the media.
Incognito is not one of those players. I’ve never seen him refuse to answer a question – even if it’s one he was just asked two minutes prior. His time in Miami has never been off limits. He has spoken of the mistakes he made, what he learned from them, and how his approach is now different.
That’s all well and good, but what matters more to the Bills is Incognito’s performance on the field. To that end, it was better than almost anyone could have hoped for. That his 2015 season will end with a trip to Hawaii for the Pro Bowl is a just reward for a player who did all that was asked of him last year. Incognito came to the Bills motivated to show that he was still capable of playing in the NFL. He easily showed that.
As for whether he’s changed as a person, only he can truly ever say. But as teammate after teammate tweeted to him Monday about his Pro Bowl honor – and Incognito took the time to respond to each one – it pointed to a player who is respected in the Bills’ locker room. Buffalo gave Incognito another chance, and he appears to be making the most of it.
2. One spin move is all it took to see the potential in Braxton Miller. I mean, look at this:
Goodness, that belongs in a museum somewhere. Miller, though, is more than just one dynamite play. The former Ohio State quarterback spent his senior season with the Buckeyes playing wide receiver, gaining 341 yards and three touchdowns on 26 catches. He also rushed for 42 times for 260 yards and another touchdown. Those statistics maybe don't jump off the computer screen, but statistics alone aren't what get college players drafted.
Just imagine a creative offensive coordinator, say like the Buffalo Bills' Greg Roman, figuring out where to line Miller up. His natural athleticism is crazy impressive, which is the main reason he's the one player I'm most interested in following at this week's Senior Bowl practices. When I hear Bills General Manager Doug Whaley and Jim Monos, the team's director of player personnel, talk about the need for a weapon opposite Sammy Watkins, Miller's name immediately jumps to mind. A great NFL comparison is actually Percy Harvin, who spent the first five games of last season with the Bills before landing on injured reserve. As I wrote Monday, I'd be interested in bringing Harvin back in 2016. If he's not healthy or finds a better offer somewhere else, however, Miller is an interesting player to keep an eye on. Current draft projections have him as a second- or third-round pick, but I'd be surprised if he made it to the Bills' pick in the third round? Is he worthy of a second-round pick? That's something Whaley and Monos will have to do their homework on.
3. It's been a long time since Wade Phillips was the Buffalo Bills' coach, but he clearly hasn't forgotten what happened here.
Here is part of Phillips' opening statement prior to playing the New England Patriots last week.
"Let me start out just saying the Patriots, we have all the respect in the world for them. I got to be a head coach a while in the league and Mr. Kraft is one of the great owners in the league and a great leader in the league," Phillips said, referring to New England owner Robert Kraft. "He has a great organization. I believe in 2000, Bill Belichick's first year, he went 5-11 and he stuck with him. That doesn't happen all the time. It worked out great for them. I remember Buffalo at that time fired their coach, and he was 8-8 and had been in playoffs the two previous years."
Phillips, of course, is talking about himself, in only the way he can. Watching the Broncos play defense, it's hard to believe Phillips was out of work last year. It's easy to feel good for him.