Smith on Incognito visit: "I do believe in second chances.'
Committing only to a visit with troubled guard Richie Incognito, Bucs coach Lovie Smith said Monday he believes in giving players a shot at redemption.
Incognito, the center of the bullying and hazing scandal involving several Miami Dolphins linemen. was suspended the final eight games of 2013. He arrived in Tampa Monday afternoon but the Bucs haven’t decided whether a workout will be involved and no contract negotiations have taken place.
“I would like to talk to him myself,’’ Smith said Monday. “And you if you know my history, I do believe in second chances. To me, nobody should have a death sentence. If you should, you’re probably in jail. And then from there, what does it hurt to talk to someone? For me, as we go forward, I’m going to give everyone the benefit of the doubt until we have information that tells us otherwise.’’
Tampa Bay is the first NFL team Incognito has visited since the league’s probe determined he and two other Dolphins offensive linemen – John Jerry and Mike Pouncey – engaged in persistent harassment of tackle Jonathan Martin, who left the team last October. Martin has since signed with the 49ers.
Smith said he had not read the Wells report but was familiar with its content. With the Bucs' in what would appear to be desperate need of offensive guards, he is willing to explore the possibility of signing Incognito, 31, who has played in 102 games (all starts) over eight seasons with the Dolphins, Bills and Rams.
“I haven’t been worried about the Wells report, I’ve been getting our football team ready,’’ Smith said. “And then now, we have a little break right before the end, and we have a prospect available, now you start looking at everything about him. Until now, Richie Incognito was just a name, really. Now that we’re bringing him in, we’ll do a little more research.
“I’m coming in with an open mind. I don’t know that. That’s why you meet some one. After we meet him, I’ll know everything I need to know. You try to cover your bases and get all the information on available prospects.’’
The Bucs offense has sputtered in the preseason but is coming off their finest performance in a 24-14 win at Buffalo Saturday. But starting guards ONiel Cousins and Patrick Omameh haven't been able to prevent quarerback Josh McCown from being sacked four times, fumbing three times (losing one) and throwing two interceptions. Only three teams have allowed more sacks than the 10 yielded by the Bucs this preseason.
“We’re pleased with what we’ve been doing,'' Smith said. "But we look at all available guys. Period. What does it hurt to look at someone that’s available? I think we owe it to our football team to do that. Before we bring in any player, everyone has to be on board with it.
“As a football player, the last time I saw (Incognito) play, he was a pretty good football player. I mean, that’s why we’re looking at him. We’re looking at him as a football player. Before you sign anyone, you look at the total body. Right now, we’re just looking at the football part and putting all the information together.''
Smith is right about giving players second chances. During his nine seasons as head coach of the Chicago Bears, his team acquired players with troubled backgrounds and stuck by others who ran afoul of the law.
The Bears stuck by defensive tackle Tank Johnson after his arrest on gun charges in 2006 and was given clearance to play in the Super Bowl. The Bears cut him in 2007 after another arrest. They re-signed linebacker Lance Briggs after he was charged with leaving the scene of a crime after crashing his Lamborghini. They acquired defensive back Ricky Manning, who was arrested on an assault complaint the day he signed an offer sheet with the Bears. He also had a previous felony assault arrest but spent two years with the Bears. Chicago also traded for receiver Brandon Marshall, who had multiple legal issues before they sent two third round picks to Miami for him.
Incognito demonstrated some instability following his suspension. He went through several rambling meltdowns on social media and entered rehab after smashing his Ferrari with a baseball bat. NFL commissioner Roger Goodell has said that Incognito and the other players invesitgated for bullying in the Wells report must be evaluated by medical professionals and receive treatment before being allowed to return to the field.
the three players named in the league's investigation into the Dolphins bullying scandal must be evaluated by "medical professionals" and complete treatment before they will be allowed to return to the playing field. Smith indicated the Bucs have been in communication with the league.
"I haven’t been worried about the Wells report, I’ve been getting our football team ready,'' Smith said. "And then now, we have a little break right before the end, and we have a prospect available, now you start looking at everything about him. Until now, Richie Incognito was just a name, really. Now that we’re bringing him in, we’ll do a little more research.
"You think we’re going to bring someone here that’s going to hurt what we have in our locker room? No. But I need to see that. I can’t go on hearsay. I have to see it for myself.''