Flashback to 2012 when, in October, Miami Dolphins offensive tackle Jonathan Martin suddenly left the team in the middle of the season and never returned. Suddenly, the Dolphins found themselves in a bullying scandal and Ted Wells was sent down to investigate the team. Three players were implicated by Wells, with guard Richie Incognito taking the brunt of the blame, with John Jerry and Mike Pouncey also engaged in the "pattern of harassment."
Incognito, who was suspended by the team shortly after the initial allegations of bullying from Martin and did not play in the final eight games for the Dolphins in 2012 season, just half-a-season after being named to the Pro Bowl for the first time. He was then released after the season, with no team willing to add him for the 2014 season.
This past offseason, Incognito returned to football, signing with the Buffalo Bills. Incognito had appeared in three games for the Bills in 2009, a brief stint between his three-plus years with the St. Louis Rams and his three-plus years in Miami. Incognito has started all 13 games for the Bills thus far, and has routinely been rated as one of the top guards in the league.
His return, and his level of play, could have him in consideration for the NFL's AP Comeback Player of the Year award. NFL.com's Chris Wesseling posted this week his top ten candidates for the award, with Incognito included. Wesseling writes of Incognito:
The face of the Dolphins' embarrassing bullying scandal of 2012, Incognito was out of football for 18 months when the Bills called last offseason. Although he's not exactly a sympathetic figure, Bills GM Doug Whaley was right to point out that Incognito had been among the NFL's best guards this season -- until Eagles defensive end Fletcher Cox "ate his lunch" last week.
Incognito absolutely should be in consideration for the award, and probably could make a good case for being the winner of it, at least in most seasons. Honestly, the award almost has to go to Kansas City Chiefs safety Eric Berry, who returned this season after beating Hodgkin's Lymphoma, a form of cancer that was discovered in December 2014 when a mass was found in Berry's chest after he complained of chest pain following a game.
The award should go to Berry, but that does not change anything about Incognito's return. Incognito's end in Miami was unfortunate, and, really, was a bad deal for a player who thought he was joking around with a close friend in Martin. Personally, I am happy for Incognito, even though he is now a member of the Dolphins' division rival Bills. He deserves at least to be mentioned in the discussion for the award.