Guard Richie Incognito was without a job for a short time earlier this year when he was released by the Las Vegas Raiders, but he has become one of the most important players on the roster since he re-signed with the Silver and Black.
The 6-4, 322-pound Incognito is a four-time Pro Bowl selection who has played 16 seasons in the NFL for the St. Louis Rams, the Buffalo Bills, the Miami Dolphins, and the Raiders and is the elder statesman of their younger, rebuilt offensive line.
“It’s great to be able to have been here for a couple of years and be established and be a leader for these young guys,” said the 38-year-old Incognito, who played only two games last season because of a leg injury. “It's great because we have some really good experience in the room.
“But it’s my job to keep those guys going, keep them hungry, keep them humble and when we get out there on Sunday, just play as one and go out there and really get after people. I think (offensive line coach) Tom Cable wants a very physical offensive line, and that’s where I come in. I set the tempo every day in practice. I bring it every day and get out in the games, and I’m out there mixing it up and putting people on their head, and that energy is contagious.
“I’ve had such a long career and I wanted come back and kick ass and play another couple years with the Raiders.”
Incognito is given credit for helping Kolton Miller become a standout left tackle in his first three seasons, and he will be expected to do the same with rookie right tackle Alex Leatherwood, the Raiders’ No. 1 pick in the 2021 NFL Draft.
But the Raiders also are without All-Pro center Rodney Hudson, right guard Gabe Jackson and Pro Bowl tackle Trent Brown, who all were traded away during the offseason after being part of an offensive line that was considered one of the best in football only a few years ago.
“You can look to my side at Richie, you can see the power from his hands to his hips and exploding into the person,” said Miller, who is entering his fourth season out of UCLA, who has credited Incognito for his progress.
“And that’s great that we got to keep Richie, and that was one of the things I learned from him just watching him play. … I’m most excited to get back up (to Las Vegas), get back to work with Richie and the rest of the O-line, and get our asses in the playoffs.”
It’s not only Miller that Incognito is mentoring, since they are the only returning starters on the O-Line for the Raiders, and Incognito relishes the opportunity,
That’s because was in a similar situation when he was starting out with the St. Louis Rams.
“They have no idea how much I love them,” said Incognito, who was selected by the Rams in the third round (No. 81 overall) in the 2005 NFL Draft put of Nebraska. “When I was starting out with the Rams, Isaac Bruce would always tell me to never lose that passion, and that is the message I carry now.
“My job when I came in (with the Raiders) part of my job was to hang out with (Miller) and (rookie center Andre James). We would sit at Coach (Tom) Cable’s place in Alameda and watch film every single day. We watched our film, we watched my old friend and Titans tackle Taylor Lewan on film … and we would also pick the brain of Trent Brown. Miller reminds me of Orlando Pace (a member of the Pro Football Hall of Fame).
“There is no doubt that Kolton Miller will be a Pro Bowl-type player in the next season or two. He’s gotten stronger and Coach (Jon) Gruden has been referring to how he’s become a quiet leader on the team.”
At his advanced football age, there are questions about how much Incognito might have left in the tank on the field.
However, even teammates on the other side of the ball believe he has plenty left.
“I voted for Richie Incognito to be captain every year I’ve been in the league,” third-year defensive end Clelin Ferrell said. “My first two years in the league I voted him to be a captain both times because I feel like a lot of things can get misconstrued about Richie.
“Especially being (such a veteran), a lot of guys would complain. Man, he comes out to practice all the time, doesn’t take days off unless coach makes him take days off. ... He’s really going to be that vocal leader this year, for sure, and kind of that stone hinge that everybody’s like, ‘OK, they got a dog on them.”
Added defensive end Maxx Crosby: “He’s a big positive influence around the building. The guy’s been in it for 17 years playing offensive line, honestly unheard of. He’s a leader. He loves football and the guy looks like he is 25-years-old.”
The Raiders obviously are hoping Incognito can play at least a few more seasons.
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