Dolphins offensive lineman Richie Incognito has found himself in the center of a national firestorm, and the chief reason might be his abuse of alcohol.
BY ADAM H. BEASLEY
Richie Incognito and alcohol are, by most appearances, a toxic mix.
As more details of his past behavior emerge, there is growing evidence that many of the decisions that wrecked Incognito’s reputation, and possibly his career, were made while impaired.
The most notorious example: The profanity-laced and racially charged voicemail he left on Jonathan Martin’s phone. The message has become Exhibit A in the case that Incognito, at the very least, emotionally abused his teammate.
“I don’t think it was a secret that Richie liked to go out and have a good time,” Dolphins offensive tackle Tyson Clabo said. “And I’m sure that we’ve all gone out and had a few too many and called somebody and don’t even remember what we said on the voicemail.”
Now, the sum of his poor decisions — which allegedly includes groping a woman with a golf club at a team outing — has put Incognito and the Dolphins squarely in the crosshairs.
Martin has hired powerhouse attorney David Cornwell, who late Thursday accused Dolphins players of “harassment that went far beyond the traditional locker room hazing.” Plus, there’s the NFL investigation, which threatens to expose the team’s dirtiest secrets.
Special counsel Ted Wells will meet with Martin in Los Angeles late next week, ESPN first reported Friday. Those plans appear to be tentative, however, as a league source said nothing has been made official yet.
Wells will include Martin’s testimony in his final report on alleged locker room misconduct, which will be made public. There is no timeline for how long the inquiry will take.
The sad irony for the Dolphins is that they weren’t exactly sold on bringing Incognito back to the team this year, and most didn’t see a future for him here beyond the current season.
During offseason planning, they considered parting ways with Incognito but ultimately decided they didn’t have enough talent to make the move. His contract expires after this season, and even before this scandal the Dolphins were not inclined to bring him back.
Perhaps they had grown tired of his antics, which, according to the National Football Post, included holding offensive line meetings at a strip club. Citing multiple sources, the story claimed Incognito would fine players who didn’t show.
Incognito, who flew to Los Angeles on Friday, according to WPLG-Channel 10, apparently enjoyed spending his downtime out on the town. It’s where some of his most notorious moments as a Dolphin have occurred.
There is the TMZ video of a shirtless Incognito cursing and screaming a racial slur in a South Florida bar, with Mike Pouncey chuckling to the side.
There’s his run-in with a Club Liv bouncer in the spring that left him with a busted face and a trespassing warning.
And then there’s the report that he molested a volunteer at a Fins Weekend event in 2012. Incognito was never charged, but the Dolphins’ front office knew all about it.
Everyone knows alcohol impairs judgment, but here’s how: It literally short-circuits your brain, at least for a short time.
As a result, your fuse can shorten, your inhibitions can shorten and your filter can disappear. Incognito has experienced all three symptoms, it appears.
For a man his size — 319 pounds — it takes a lot of alcohol to get drunk. He could consume seven shots in an hour and still not be over the legal limit.
In a story that ran earlier this season on NFL.com, Incognito acknowledged struggling with drugs and alcohol in the past. He has been kicked off teams in college and the pros.
“I mean, we’d have practice the next morning, and I’m out until all hours of the night, running the town,” Incognito told the website. “Drinking. Doing drugs. I was doing everything that a professional athlete should not be doing.”
He claimed to have turned his life around, finding peace through therapy, medication and the support of loyal Dolphins teammates.
But in the end, like everything about this still-unfolding saga, it turned out to be only part of the story.