Richie Incognito on making the most of his return to the NFL

NFL Media's Oklahoma Drill series presents exclusive, quick-hitting one-on-one interviews with players and coaches from around the league. No nonsense -- just football experiences directly from the source.

Richie Incognito

Offensive guard, Buffalo Bills

Born: July 5, 1983

Experience: 11 NFL seasons

Interview by Tom Blair | July 17, 2017

My favorite thing about Buffalo is the people. It is a really unique place to play professional football, because it has such a college atmosphere. The fans are so passionate about it. They're so in tune with everything that we do. We have such a strong following. They haven't made the playoffs in [18] years, and those people are still as passionate as ever, and the whole city, you know, the city has this underdog mentality. People always want to talk bad about Buffalo, and the weather, and the people, and there's nothing to do. And people have this edge to them, and it's what I identify with most, because I have a big chip on my shoulder. I have a lot to prove.

Every time I step out my door, I have crazy interactions with [Bills fans]. You know, they're nuts. ... But they're passionate about it. I love it. Everywhere we go, they're always showing love.

I was out here [in Los Angeles] at a friend's house, and we were on the patio, sitting there, chilling, and a guy pulls up in the back of a Toyota Tacoma, in Hermosa Beach, cracks two beers over his head, starts chugging them, and they all start singing the Bills Mafia song. So it's like, you know what, no matter where we are, we're with the Bills fans.

Yeah, I'm playing the best football of my life right now. I've had a lot of things come together off the field that have really just given me peace of mind. And you know, really just kind of helped take me to the next level as a player. Spending the year out, and watching my friends and teammates continue playing while I had the year off, it really just lit a fire under my belly that burns bright, and it burns hot, and just made me realize what a special opportunity it is and what a privilege it is to play in the NFL. So I just take that every day, I take that mindset, that approach, that hunger every day, and I attack every day, and it's brought my game to a whole new level.

The thing I hang onto is, I'm just so blessed and so thankful to have another opportunity, and I just want to make right on it, no matter what I'm doing. I'm an incredibly hard worker, and that's where it usually comes out, you know, in the weight room and on the practice field, taking care of my body, stuff like that.

I found my purpose; my purpose was to be the best football player I could be. Not the party animal, not the socialite, not the guy out to all hours of the evening. Once I figured out my purpose in football, all the other stuff kind of fell off, and, you know, my purpose and my focus and my vision on football just got even greater.

I learned a lot about myself. I learned a lot about what I wanted out of life, what I wanted out of football. It was another situation in my life where it kind of just forced me to take the next step and grow up and accept my actions and accept my things that I did wrong, and learn from them, and use my friends and my network and my people around me to help make me better, as opposed to, you know, shutting them out and being bull-headed and young and going about my business. I really kind of let people come in and critique me and tell me some hard truths, and it just helped me take the next step, first as a person, and then getting through that and learning what I wanted from life, and kind of transitioning to that, then it made me a better player. And it all really kind of all worked together.

Yeah, [my approach in the locker room] had to change. It had to change. I was always the loudest, most boisterous one, causing trouble, doing pranks. I was always that alpha, you know, the alpha of the alphas, you know, the ringleader, the roughest one, the toughest one, the loudest one. And I had to change. I became a better teammate because of it, because I learned how to operate in that ecosystem, not just try and dominate every situation and be this guy that really I wasn't, I kind of made myself into.

So it was really cool when I got to Buffalo and I had guys like Eric Wood and Tyrod [Taylor] and Kyle Williams, guys who I knew before stepping into that locker room. They kind of insulated me and gave me a chance to try and figure out how to navigate it, all the while being myself, but still trying to figure out, like, hey, there's a lot of stuff out there about me, but these guys necessarily don't know me. I want them to get to know me first. And then I can bust some chops and have some fun. Buffalo was the perfect landing place for me.

I'll always be attached with [the bullying scandal]. And I'll always be attached with all the knucklehead stuff I did in St. Louis and at the University of Nebraska. I think it's, you know, I have many chapters to this book that we call Richie Incognito and my life. Each chapter, I've learned, I've gotten better, and now I'm trying to make a positive out of it. Now I'm trying to do something good with my life. I'm trying to be a good player, I'm trying to be a good role model, I'm trying to use what I've been given me to make some good out of it, make positive change out of it.

There's this crazy perception about me. But, you know, I always tell people this: If you spend five or 10 minutes with me, and we just chat, we talk, I really think that I change a lot of people's minds in five to 10 minutes.

I really do, people do underestimate how good a quarterback Tyrod can be. ... But Tyrod's a tremendous athlete. He's an even more tremendous person. He's got a big heart; he's a great leader; he works very hard. And I'm excited for him this year. I'm excited for him to take that next step. I'm excited for him to prove the doubters wrong.

So my year off, I spent the whole year training at Exos in Phoenix, all of 2014. And once the season ended in 2014, Tyrod, after his season in Baltimore, had come out to work out in Arizona. And it was actually me, Tyrod, [Colin] Kaepernick and several other guys. And, you know, they had gotten there, and they didn't know what the heck was going on. So I just stayed quiet. I stayed quiet, I worked hard, I'd been training there like every day for 10 months. And after awhile, you know, my personality's going to come out eventually. And, like, after a week or two, my personality was coming out, and I could see those guys, they warmed up to me. At first, they were very skeptical, and then we warmed up to each other, because we were just working hard, being ourselves.

It was really cool that [Tyrod and I] both started our Bills journey together. And he was fighting for the starting quarterback job; I was fighting for a starting guard job; I was trying to reestablish myself. And I was pulling for him to be the starter the entire time. I was in the GM's ear about it. ... We had a three-way competition, and I just saw how Tyrod moved, the command he had of the huddle, and I was like, "Listen, you need to play him."

Rex [Ryan] is Rex. Rex does his thing. Players love him; I love Rex. I really do. I owe him a lot for bringing me back in the league. And [new Bills coach] Sean [McDermott is] a completely different animal. But I really like what Coach McDermott brings to the table. He's a fiery competitor. He is fierce. He has that wrestler's mentality. He always wants to be competing. He's always chomping at the bit. He wants energy really high. ... He's very detail-oriented. He's a stickler for the details, which I like, I like out of a head man. ... Usually, the detail-oriented guys don't have that personality and can't show it. But he's got a little bit of a personality, and he's trying to bring a winning culture to Buffalo. He's doing some things where I really think he's changing the culture.

Oh, man. I'd say a lot [to myself as a rookie]. It'd take a couple days. And I don't think any of it would sink in. But I would say, you know, just focus on yourself. Focus on being the best version of yourself every single day. Let people in. Take advice from people. Let people help you. 'Cause there are a lot of people that want to help you, but you're being bull-headed right now. You're ignoring them. So, just, let people in, let people help.

And football is your focus. It's not party; it's not travel; it's not all this other stuff that you think it is. It's football.

I see myself in the media [after my playing career ends]. I love football. I'm a really good communicator. I like being in front of the camera; I don't get camera-shy. So I'm gonna give this a whirl. I could see myself being on TV, talking, doing a podcast. Just kind of being around the game. I love the game and I love being around the guys.

I have not [spoken with Jonathan Martin], no, not since it went down.

You know what, it's, the whole gamut of emotions went through my head. You know, What would I do, what would I do, what would I do [if I found myself in the same room as Martin]. And it's funny, because I've just been talking to some people the last couple weeks, couple months, and I think I'm just getting to the point where I can accept it. And I think I would be good sitting in a room. 'Cause I, you know, for months and years after that, probably nothing good would've come of us being in the same room. But it's water under the bridge.

I'm sorry that things went down the way they did. I definitely could've conducted myself a lot better. But I'm ready to bury the hatchet. I'm ready to move on. Jon was a good friend of mine when this all went down, and before it went down. All the crazy stuff happened. And it's always tough. 'Cause people say, when you walk around with a grudge, that's on you. You hold that. And once you can let it go, then you really start learning. And I can really say, just the last couple weeks and couple months, I've really been able to kind of accept it and let go of it.

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