News of OL Richie Incognito‘s presence in Tampa quickly ignited a barrage of speculation regarding the future of the controversial player, as well as the state of the Buccaneers under-performing offensive line. The “visit”, as Head Coach Lovie Smith has emphasized that is all it is, entailed Incognito undergoing a physical and meeting with Smith on Monday evening.
“It’s nothing more than a visitor coming in and a part of that process,” Smith said.
Smith would not comment on what the “visit” meant for the future of Incognito and the Buccaneers, only stating that the organization was looking at all available options.
“For every available guy, if there’s some interest, then you evaluate them with your current roster that you have. So yeah, there’s some interest,” he said. “As far as the signing part, haven’t really gone that far. What I’ve done right now, I know he’s coming in, [we] had a great practice today out on our football field. Most of my thought is really on our team and Carolina and the progress we’re making right now. And then if there are other possible players that we should be looking at right now, yeah I’m going to do that. It’s down the list a little bit.”
Incognito was the center of scandal last season at the Miami Dolphins that left him suspended indefinitely. The scandal involved the bullying of a fellow teammate and had racial undertones, which could be a cause of concern for any organization hoping to maintain order in the locker room. Smith did not believe that Incognito would be a distraction to the team, but was using this evaluation process to determine any potential detriment.
“Bringing him in is a different thing. If I had a football player on our football team that I thought would mess up our team chemistry, the answer is no. Simple as that. But I can’t assume that’s the case. And to me, as you go through the process, you look and you talk face-to-face with everybody that’s available. That’s what we’re doing. I think you guys know me well enough to know. You think I’m going to bring someone here that’s going to hurt what we have in our locker room? No. And every decision we make, it’s not just me and us, it’s everybody. When you look at our 53-man roster, everyone is on board with everyone on that roster, that final one.”
At an August 11 press conference, Smith was asked whether Incognito was a possible candidate for the Buccaneers roster. At the time, Smith was vague.
“All players that are available we look to see if they would fit into our program,” Smith said. “All players. I’ll just kind of leave it at that. If we’re really interested in someone we’ll bring them in. Again we’re looking at everyone constantly. Not just now, every position.”
Monday night the NFL announced Incognito’s suspension was lifted and he was cleared to resume his NFL career in the regular season.