Richie Incognito’s tumultuous history traces at least as far back as Nebraska.
The veteran offensive lineman was suspended Sunday by the Miami Dolphins for allegedly harassing teammate Jonathan Martin. Former Husker teammate Josh Brown said Incognito “seems to be somebody who’s really got some demons that are out of the building.”
In 2003, World-Herald reporter Liz Merrill documented Richie Incognito’s anger issues in this story:
With ABC cameras fixed on a mid-September night of upset, Richie Incognito was sprawled atop Penn State defensive end Jeremiah Davis, fists flailing.
Nebraska’s coaches said Incognito had spunk. Fans called it attitude.
Whatever it is, Incognito is trying to control it. The suspended sophomore lineman was seen this week at the Menninger Clinic, a national specialty psychiatric and behavioral hospital in Topeka, Kan.
Two people close to the situation who spoke under the condition of anonymity said Incognito is getting help for anger management.
The Menninger Clinic offers evaluation and treatment programs for everything from eating disorders to post-traumatic stress. It also specializes in helping athletes with issues such as pressures to succeed and anxiety about injury.
Nebraska has worked with the clinic before. Former NU I-back Lawrence Phillips was evaluated there after brushes with the law in 1995.
A check of Lincoln police and NU campus security records show that Incognito has broken no laws.
From almost the moment he arrived on campus, Incognito’s intensity was applauded. He was the freshman on the scout team whom coaches marveled at, the feisty kid who got into scrapes at practice because he couldn’t dial it down.
NU Coach Frank Solich, who declined to be interviewed for this story, won’t say why Incognito must sit for half of spring drills. He has said only that Incognito violated team policy and needs to meet some off-the-field demands to play.
Incognito’s on-the-field skirmishes have been well documented. There was the fight with Davis in September, and the ejection and half-game suspension that followed.
Two weeks earlier, against Troy State, officials warned NU coaches about Incognito after he allegedly was caught spitting on an opposing player.
Incognito went beyond the whistles again in November against Colorado, committing a momentum – turning penalty in the third quarter of a 28-13 loss. The penalty forced the Huskers to settle for a field goal and a 13-7 lead after recovering a fumble at the CU 17.
“I hate pointing fingers, but that’s a stupid thing, ” rush end Chris Kelsay said at the time. “We should have had seven points, and we got three. It was a stupid mistake.”
After the game, then-senior center John Garrison said he was working with Incognito on his temper.
In the first scrimmage of the spring Saturday, Incognito was whistled for a personal-foul penalty.
“I don’t ever want to reduce anybody’s aggressiveness, ” Barney Cotton, Nebraska’s new offensive line coach, said recently. “Just do it between the whistles and within the rules.”
It’s unclear what kind of help Incognito is getting at the Menninger Clinic. The length of his visit also was not known. Bryan Bailey, a member of NU’s strength and conditioning staff, accompanied Incognito to the clinic. He and Incognito were seen leaving the clinic Monday about 12:30 p.m. for lunch. They went to Ruby Tuesday in Topeka, and afterward Bailey returned Incognito to the clinic.
Husker players and assistant coaches, like Solich, declined to comment specifically on reasons behind Incognito’s suspension.
Teammates call him a leader, a person they need on a young line that is breaking in new starters.
“I don’t think he really has to turn it down, ” NU offensive guard Junior Tagoa’i said of Incognito, who has declined interview requests since September. “He just has to redirect. You can’t get off on a little tangent.
“We’re all intense. But once in a while you have a little vendetta with someone on the field, and all you’re thinking is, ‘Get this guy. Put him down.’ Sometimes that isn’t the best way to go about it.”
Incognito is considered the brightest young star on the offensive line and has been mentioned in the same breath as former All-Americans such as Dominic Raiola and Toniu Fonoti.
The 6-foot-3, 305-pound left tackle from Glendale, Ariz., led the team in pancake blocks (171) and was a Sporting News freshman All-American.
He almost played as a true freshman, getting elevated to the No. 1 offense in practice. It was there he showed his spunk, and Incognito recalled a day when he got into scuffles with his teammates.
“I was trying to play last year, “ Incognito said last fall. “I was trying my hardest out there, and guys couldn’t understand that, so we had a go at it.
“I remember one practice I ran the stairs like five times. The whole thing of running stairs and getting time out of practice … I want to be in practice.”
Incognito is expected back at practice next week, and, if he fulfills what Solich says he needs to get done, will play in the April 19 spring game.
“To be honest, I look forward to working with him, ” Cotton said. “I think he has a lot of potential. We’re just looking to see where potential turns into ability.”
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Video: Fox Sports report on Incognito:
Video: Mike Ditka speaks about Incognito situation:
Video: Boomer Esiason speaks about bullying in the NFL: