The Oakland Raiders’ 36-year-old offensive lineman, whose first NFL season came in 2005 with the St. Louis Rams, opened up about the turbulent incidents that have overshadowed his talent in an interview on HBO’s “Real Sports.” Among the topics covered were his involvement in the Miami Dolphins’ bullying scandal, an incident at a gym in South Florida and the terrifying incident after his father’s death.
“There’s a lot of crazy stuff in my past,” he admitted, “and I wanted to come in here and show the world, ‘Hey, listen, I’m okay. I’m excited about playing for the Oakland Raiders. And I’m ready to learn from where I’ve been and move forward.’"
Incognito said he “never thought” about firing the weapons in his truck at Messingers Funeral Home staff members in August 2018 in Scottsdale, Ariz. “It was an emotional day for myself. And I showed up at the funeral home, and I wasn’t in my best health,” Incognito said. “I thought I was acting normal. You couple in the days not sleeping, then the heavy marijuana use, plus the drinking. All that is a recipe for disaster for a person like myself.”
While making arrangements for his father’s funeral, Incognito became “upset with staff and began to damage property inside the business and shout at employees,” according to Scottsdale police, and said he wanted his father’s head cut off for research purposes. Incognito told “Real Sports” he was on nothing stronger than marijuana when he got physical, punching caskets and throwing things during a visit in which he was supposed to sign cremation papers. He went to his truck, in which he had two handguns, three rifles, four magazines and a silencer.
“I was in the process of moving. And those weapons didn’t make it on the shipment that went up to Las Vegas,” Incognito said. “I never thought [about shooting] one bit. I made a finger gesture like this [his fingers pointed out with his thumb extended] ... ‘I’m going to go to the vehicle, I’ll be right back.’ My intention was to go to the vehicle and grab my father’s medical records to come in and show them. I went out to the vehicle, I came back in, and that’s when the lady, unfortunately, called 911 and said that I threatened to kill everybody in there and shoot everybody. Those words never came out of my mouth.
“I’m sorry for striking that fear into them. I was definitely putting off a bad vibe. Next thing you know, the Scottsdale police are coming into the door with their guns drawn and I got on the ground and I was arrested.”
Incognito, who said he has not been diagnosed with any psychiatric disorder, is back in the NFL, his talent outweighing the trouble, some of it extremely embarrassing for the NFL. During the 2013 season, the Dolphins suspended him after allegations surfaced that he had bullied teammate Jonathan Martin, and an NFL investigation found a culture of intolerance, adding that Incognito and two other teammates had indeed bullied Martin and another unnamed Dolphins player while also directing racist taunts toward an Asian American assistant athletic trainer.
Incognito said he isn’t to blame for the brevity of Martin’s career. “I did not drive him out of the league,” he said. “I believe his mental health issues and his demons in his past drove him out of the league.
“I fit the bill. Hey, racist, homophobic, whatnot. What I’m saying was, we were close, personal friends. It wasn’t factored into: ‘Hey, this is guy talk. These are two alpha males talkin’ to each other.’ Was some bad s--- said? Absolutely. But was this a case of bullying? Absolutely not.”
Even though his suspension lasted only until the end of the 2013 season, Incognito didn’t play at all in 2014, at one point checking into an Arizona treatment facility for psychological evaluation, but returned in 2015 for three Pro Bowl seasons with the Buffalo Bills.
In May 2018, he was taken into custody and sent for an involuntary psychiatric evaluation after an incident at a Florida fitness center. Incognito was not arrested, telling “Real Sports” that he had been experiencing “paranoia to the Nth degree. I had not been taking care of myself for so long — you’re talking lack of sleep, not eating, marijuana — drinking, heavily … days and days and weeks on weeks on end, and that is the — that is the product you get. You get a highly paranoid, very large individual talking a bunch of nonsense.”
Citing liver and kidney problems, Incognito announced he was stepping away from football in April 2018 after a three-season run with the Buffalo Bills. But he changed his mind days later and demanded a new contract. The Bills refused and cut him after he failed to show up for offseason workouts. He did not play in the 2018 season, either.
Despite the funeral home incident, the Raiders became the fifth NFL team to give the four-time Pro Bowl player another chance in the NFL. When he signed in March, the NFL slapped him with a two-game suspension for violating the personal conduct policy and he pleaded guilty to a misdemeanor disorderly conduct charge stemming from that incident. He played in his first game this season Sunday, and given the controversies that have followed him around the league, Bernard Goldberg asked whether he is “a walking time bomb” in Oakland.
“I hope not,” Incognito answered. “I think — history will suggest that I am, but I really am, I’m working hard to kind of differentiate from that person and really not make the same mistakes that I have made before to put me in those situations.”
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