Even before the Dolphins suspended Richie Incognito last Sunday, the offensive guard was known as one of the league's dirtiest players and generally considered a loose cannon. But that tenacity, when confined to the field, is what also made him appealing to teams looking for an enforcer.
It's a fine line, one that Incognito has crossed on more than one occasion. And now, with teammate Jonathan Martin having left the team amid allegations of bullying, Incognito has become the face of what's wrong with the NFL's locker room culture.
“You win with good people on and off the field,” Hall of Famer Don Shula, who coached the Dolphins to two Super Bowl titles from 1970-1995, told the Miami Herald this week. “They took a chance on a guy with a bad reputation and it backfired on them.”
Most of Incognito's current teammates have come to his defense but one former teammate, Cam Cleeland, called him "an immature, unrealistic scumbag."
"When it came down to it, he had no personality, he was a locker-room cancer, and he just wanted to fight everybody all the time," Cleeland continued. "It was bizarre beyond belief."
The NFL is currently investigating the situation in Miami, including, according to CBS NFL Insider Jason La Canfora, plans to meticulously and diligently probe broader issues aside from the inter-personal dynamics between Martin and Incognito. This includes the larger locker room culture there, how pervasive issues of bullying and harassment might be, and what role, if any the coaching staff, management, and ownership may have played -- implicit or complicit -- in the team's handling and control of workplace issues.
Meanwhile, when Shula was asked what he wants most for this franchise, he didn't mention winning seasons or Lombardi trophies but something much more basic.
“Just to get back that credibility,” he said.