The thought of Richie Incognito as a mentor might cause some wide eyed looks. After all, in his career in the NFL, he hasn’t been exactly the type of personality you want young players to model themselves after. But that’s the situation the Raiders are in.
Incognito will be suspended the first two games of the season. Someone will have to step into his left guard spot during that time and he has to help that guy prepare for that.
That guy at this juncture is recent free agent addition, Jonathan Cooper. A former first round pick who was signed the moment the Raiders were told Incognito would be suspended for the first two games of next season.
The relationship seems to have been established between Incognito and Cooper. The two were both training in Arizona this offseason waiting for their call to sign with a team. As it turns out, they both got the call from the same team. Incognito sees it as part of his job to get Cooper ready to be the starting left guard to begin the season.
“Absolutely. I think that’s a big part of my role here is helping the young guys get prepared, get better, teach them some of my ways of keeping the body right, technique, a lot of stuff that comes with playing 12 years in the NFL,” said Incognito.
Along with Cooper, there’s the guy that lines up to the left of Incognito. Kolton Miller is entering his second season hoping to improve upon an abysmal 16 sacks surrendered. Incognito is taking him under his wing too.
“I think Kolton’s an extremely talented kid. Nothing but positive things to say about him. He’s big, he’s long, he’s athletic. He’s got the right attitude, he works hard, and hopefully I can bring a little bit of that nasty edge to him, getting him to come out of his shell a little bit. Hopefully we can work together.”
Miller could certainly use a healthy dose of nastiness. Though the level of nastiness Incognito has displayed in his career is probably more the unhealthy level.
That reputation is something Incognito says he is working on. It’s the reason the Raiders were one of only a handful of teams who showed even the slightest interest in signing the 36-year-old veteran guard.
Though he is not willing to go into specifics, he definitely suffers from some serious mental health issues. He’s come to grips with it and is taking steps to deal with them and the Raiders have offered as much support as they can in that regard.
“I think the big topic when I came in was Mike and coach Gruden and everybody in the Raiders organization just trying to support me as much as they could,” said incognito. “They wanted to know how they can help me, how they can help me adjust. And they were there with open arms. And they’ve been great about it. We’ve been in constant communication, we have a team around me, and we’re just making sure I’m checking all the boxes, holding up my end of the bargain. That’s why it’s great to get out here. I’ve checked all the boxes, I’ve done everything right and earn the opportunity to practice with the team.”
Undoubtedly we’re getting the best version of Incognito right now. Much of his issues of late as he says stemmed from being away from football, including three incidents in the past year — one in which he had disorderly conduct at a local gym, threatening his 90-year-old grandmother and vandalizing her home, and threatening to shoot a funeral home director. Both of the final two incidents occurred following the death of his father.
Yeah, he seems like an unlikely mentor. Though if his mental and emotional state is in check, he has a lot to offer young players from a talent perspective.
Hopefully Kolton Miller is smart enough to recognize just how much of a nasty edge is acceptable. That’s a line Incognito has not always had a sense for.