NAPA, Calif. -- Saying he wanted to "make it right," offensive lineman Richie Incognito said Saturday his May signing with the Oakland Raiders was about "redemption" and that the team was getting "the best version of myself" while discussing mental health.
Incognito, who will serve an NFL-mandated two-game suspension for violating the league's personal conduct policy but is eligible to participate in training camp and preseason games, also said being in football after a one-year retirement was a sort of therapy.
"It's about getting another opportunity," Incognito said following Oakland's first training camp practice. "It's about, really, [general manager] Mike Mayock and [coach] Jon Gruden and the Raiders organization giving me an opportunity and ... I want to make it positive for everybody. I want to come in here and contribute. I want to be a team leader. I want to rewrite the ending."
Incognito, 36, has been in the NFL since 2005 and has a list of transgressions as long as his on-field accomplishments as a four-time Pro Bowler who has also been named the NFL's dirtiest player. He pleaded guilty in April to two misdemeanors after an incident involving his 90-year-old grandmother that took place last August in Peoria, Arizona.
Incognito was ordered to take 10 weekly anger-management sessions and pay a $569 fine. He also was given one year of unsupervised probation per terms of the agreement. He was ordered to stay away from his grandmother's home, stay on his medication, avoid alcohol, not possess firearms and write a letter of apology. That same month, he also pleaded guilty to a misdemeanor disorderly conduct charge stemming from an arrest last August in Scottsdale, Arizona. Two days after the fight with his grandmother, Incognito was arrested after making threats at a funeral home where his father's body was being held.
Incognito was also at the center of a 2013 investigation into the bullying of Miami Dolphins teammate Jonathan Martin, which led to a suspension for Incognito, who did not play football in 2014.
"I knew the Richie Incognito story for years," Mayock said the day before camp opened. "There's some dark moments, but there's an awful lot of bright moments also. He's been nothing but phenomenal, both to the young guys in the building [and] in the offensive-line room. He's been responsive to me. I've sat him down in my office four to five different times. It's been all about off the field. I know he can handle on the field. Just sitting down, having mature conversations. ... I've been excited about the kid on and off the field."
Incognito has been playing left guard with the Raiders' first-team offense since the day he signed. But with his impending suspension and Denzelle Good sidelined for about two months after offseason back surgery, recently signed Jonathan Cooper is in line to start there to open the season.
In camp, though, Incognito said he would take on the role of mentor, a seemingly unlikely part.
"When guys get around me. ... I think that they see something different than they've read in the headlines," he said. "It's like being in a tribe. There's a bunch of accountability and there's a bunch of checkmarks along the way.
"The legacy of this organization and the history is definitely something that's important to me and it's awesome to be a part of it. I want [fans] to know that I'm going to work my butt off. I'm going to work hard every single day and ... this is the last ride so I'm going to give you everything I've got and hopefully that's enough to win a lot of ballgames."
Incognito was signed to a one-year prove-it deal, with Mayock saying at the time that expectations were that Incognito would not only be a good teammate but a good human being. The Raiders have put a support system in place for Incognito that includes a clinician to help him. And according to Incognito, the road to having more good days than bad goes through the game.
"The path is just being around the guys, being around football," he said. "Being in a good state -- mentally, physically, emotionally, working toward a goal, and just showing up and being accountable.
"I think the big thing for me is just being man enough to ask for help when I need it. I think for so many years I've just done this thing where I'll grit my teeth and work hard, kind of grind through this. You've obviously seen I've had some setbacks, I've had some dark days, but I'm focusing on those positive days and just building some momentum and rolling right into the season."
As such, Incognito said he now realizes he has a platform to talk about mental health, and there was "zero talk" about such things when he entered the league in 2005.
"Mental health is something in this country that is stigmatized and it's been well published, right, I've had my ups and downs," he said. "I hope to grow into that role. I think I'm still working through it so I'm not really comfortable speaking on it right now. But, you know, it's been a long journey to get here.
"With concussions and traumatic brain injuries and mental health taking the forefront in the news, I really think it's something that the league needs to spend a little more time on. Guys, when they get away from the game, they struggle. Guys like myself, when they're in the game, they struggle.
"There are resources out there. It's an ego thing for some people; I know it is for myself, to be able to swallow your pride and ask for some help."