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USA TODAY
Jarrett Bell, jbell@usatoday.com, USA TODAY Sports

Richie Incognito has tweeted his apologies and declared his intent to get back to work.

He also needs a reality check.

Toxic baggage does not play well on the NFL market.

USA TODAY Sports surveyed six NFL teams Tuesday to gauge interest in the one-time Pro Bowl guard at the heart of the Miami Dolphins' bullying/workplace harassment scandal that was detailed in the recently released Ted Wells report.

Four general managers and two personnel executives responded, though all six spoke on condition of anonymity because of the sensitivity of the matter.

Just one of the six teams indicated -- hesitantly -- it would consider signing Incognito, 30, who will be cleared to sign with any club when the free agent market opens March 11.

"You always consider a guy with all that starting experience, (who) plays with that aggressive edge," one GM told USA TODAY Sports. "But at the same time, he's no spring chicken, and you have to factor in all the personality and off-field stuff."

Two GMs rejected the notion unequivocally, with both maintaining that they scratched Incognito from their draft boards in 2005 because of character concerns and haven't budged.

The two personnel executives indicated it is unlikely they would ever sign Incognito, while the other GM leans against the idea but would not completely rule it out, saying it probably would take an emergency caused by injuries to consider Incognito.

"I sure wouldn't want to, but when it's the middle of the season and half of your O-line is on (injured reserve), he might look very attractive," the second GM told USA TODAY Sports. "Never say never in personnel."

It might seem surprising there are teams that would consider Incognito under any circumstances, given the extent to which he participated in conditions that contributed to tackle Jonathan Martin's decision to bolt from the Dolphins and was otherwise portrayed in the 144-page Wells Report that stemmed from an NFL-authorized investigation.

In addition to tormenting Martin for an extended period, berating an assistant trainer with racial invectives and ridiculing another lineman with homophobic slurs, Incognito exchanged text messages with a former teammate in which he stated a weapon and rifle scope that he purchased would be "perfect for shooting black people."

More than two-thirds of NFL players are African American. With such a sentiment in the public domain as a result of the investigation, in addition to his admitted use of racial slurs, his impact on chemistry within a locker room would be a consideration in signing him. Imagine a GM explaining the signing of Incognito at a news conference.

"A lot would come with that," a third GM told USA TODAY Sports. "By bringing him in, it could be viewed as if you're condoning his behavior."

Still, in the hyper-competitive NFL, there are many cases of players getting multiple opportunities to resume their careers despite serious off-the-field issues. Typically, the more talented the player, the more likely he is to get another chance.

Incognito is surely banking on his reputation as a hard-nosed interior lineman to land him another shot.

Incognito's eight-game suspension, imposed by the Dolphins, was officially lifted this month, though it is possible that he could be further disciplined by NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell. That, too, could weigh into whether teams pursue Incognito.

Clearly, though, Incognito is game for another round of attempted damage control. He took to Twitter again -- apologizing to Martin, Dolphins owner Stephen Ross and Wells. He also proclaimed love for the NFL.

But if a team takes a chance on Incognito, there's surely no denying the risks.

 
February 19, 2014
 
 
 

 

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