Incognito Gets Fresh Start
Friday, September 30, 2005
By Nick Wagoner
Although Richie Incognito isn’t quite ready to put on the pads and strap on his helmet, he can finally start doing some of the other things that are important to his indoctrination to the NFL.
You know, like getting to know his teammates, rehabilitation, learning the playbook and finding out what position he is going to play.
“It’s huge for them and it’s huge for me just getting in here and interacting with these guys, jelling with the offensive line,” Incognito said. “It’s a different story when you are 2500 miles away rehabbing by yourself every day as opposed to being here, being at practice, rehabbing and working. It’s just a great feeling. I am really excited.”
For a guy who has played just about every position along the line in his career (he was primarily a tackle when he started at Nebraska), Incognito’s positional status was about as uncertain as his contract status in the months since the NFL Draft.
But along with the clearing up of the contract issue came the clarification he was looking for on where he will line up when his knee injury is fully healed.
“I spoke with Coach Martz yesterday about (what I’ll do) position-wise,” Incognito said. “He said I’m going to start learning from center, out. I’m going to learn all the calls at center, then, you know, it’s the NFL, wherever they need me, tackle, guard, center, I’ll play anywhere.”
Incognito is certainly capable of playing and playing well at any position along the offensive line. He was a freshman All American at tackle and All Big 12 Conference at the spot during his sophomore campaign. For those reasons, Incognito was widely considered a first-round talent in April’s draft.
When Incognito suffered a knee injury in the weeks leading to the draft, it set his draft status back plenty and he fell to the Rams, who had coveted him, in the third round. That knee injury has kept Incognito from playing football for over two years.
Now that he is signed, sealed and delivered, Incognito can finally see the light at the end of the tunnel. After months and months of rehabilitation in Arizona, he is back in St. Louis for the first time since OTAs and learning all about what goes into being a professional football player.
Lesson number one came right away during his first practice. Incognito was given the task of carrying All Pro left tackle Orlando Pace’s helmet off the practice field. But Incognito understand that comes with the territory.
“It’s just part of being a rookie, no problem,” Incognito said.
As for the status of Incognito’s knee, it appears to be in better shape and he seems close to being ready to suit up. Incognito spent Friday’s practice working with strength and conditioning coach Dane LeDuc on the side.
Incognito appeared to have his mobility and agility back in order and seems antsy to get back on the field for real.
“It’s a long road, it’s hard, step-by-step and day-by-day,” Incognito said. “Now, I’m really at the end of it where I’m running and getting back on the athletic side of things, so I’m really excited about that.”
Incognito’s status on the active roster is confusing, but the Rams have plenty of options as to what they can do with him depending on his progress in the next few weeks.
Incognito was put on the reserve/non-football injury list Friday, which allows him to participate in team meetings and continue rehab with the Rams’ staff. He is not eligible to practice until Oct. 18, which is the first day of the 21-day practice period the NFL allows for players on the list to participate.
That said, Incognito doesn’t have to begin practice on Oct. 18. He can begin practice at any point starting on that date, but so long as he does begin in the 21-day period that starts on that day, the Rams will have three weeks to evaluate him and decide whether to activate him. In other words, St. Louis could wait until the end of the 21-day period and then have him begin practice, which would open it up for another three weeks of evaluation.
It is undecided as of now when Incognito will begin practice, but that will likely depend on his progress in the next few weeks.
“In my mind, a couple weeks,” Incognito said. “I feel I will be ready in Week 6 to put on the pads and go out there and play and practice, but you know it’s kind of a deal where we have to wait to cross that bridge. You have to wait until it’s time to cross because anything could happen.”
For instance, Incognito could have a setback in his rehab that would push his time frame back. It also isn’t out of the question that Incognito’s ability to pick up the offense will also put a slight delay in his plans.
Still, Incognito doesn’t have any desire to play…sooner than later.
“I have a lot of desire to get on the field this year,” Incognito said. “That’s the ultimate goal. There’s a window, there’s about a 21-day window for me to open up in Weeks 6-9 to put on pads and earn a spot. And that’s what I’m looking forward to right now.”
So what happens when Incognito does finally put the pads on? He earned a reputation for having a mean streak (a trait he credits to his mother) with the Cornhuskers and proved to be quite an athlete at the combine where he ran the best 40 time among offensive linemen.
Although he hasn’t played competitive football since 2003, he isn’t worried about how he will perform when he does get on the field.
“Football is like riding a bike for me,” Incognito said. “I was born to play this game and I don’t anticipate any problems.”
Incognito’s transition to the reserve/non-football injury list allowed the Rams to bring cornerback Terry Fair back to the team Friday morning. Fair practiced and looks like he will be ready to play this weekend.
MISSING MARTZ: Head coach Mike Martz missed Friday’s practice because of a sinus infection.
It was unclear whether Martz was still at the hospital during the work out, but linebackers and assistant head coach Joe Vitt handled the main duties, including filling in for Martz during the daily post-practice media session.
“He is getting some antibiotics and getting some rest right now,” Vitt said. “We expect Mike to be back on Sunday and this is a great opportunity for him to get some rest and some antibiotics in him.”
Martz was sick for most of the first two weeks of the regular season with what was deemed the flu.
“He has been feeling bad for a couple weeks now and he felt real bad this morning,” Vitt said. “This is a great opportunity for him to get better.”
FURREY IN A PINCH?: With receiver Isaac Bruce doubtful for Sunday’s game because of a toe injury, the Rams would be left with just four active receivers should Bruce not play.
That would seem to make the need for the addition of another receiver more important. Considering the amount of three and four receiver sets the Rams use, it would seem that another receiver would only be needed if another one gets hurt. Should that happen, there are a few options that St. Louis could use.
Backup running back Marshall Faulk is certainly capable of lining up wide, but there is another player more than capable of handling the receiver duties in a tight spot. Converted receiver Mike Furrey, who has made the successful transition to free safety could, in theory, play receiver if the need would arise.
Furrey claimed at the end of the preseason that his transition to safety was a complete one, but he lined up some with the scout team at receiver during Friday’s practice.
Furrey said he was just doing that to help out and he doesn’t expect to have to play receiver again any time soon.
“I was just messing around,” Furrey said. “That’s a Friday routine that they do. I just decided to jump in and get loose. That was the scout team for the offense at that point in time. They’ll be all right (at receiver).”
MORE BABY ACTIVITY: On the heels of the birth of Abigail Alicia Pickett on Thursday, right guard Adam Timmerman and wife Jana welcomed daughter Jada Lynn into the world on Friday.
Jada joins a brother, Mason, and sister, Alexa. Height, weight and 40 time were unavailable. Jada checked in at 5 pounds, 3 ounces, but her 40 time was unavailable. Mom and baby are fine and resting comfortably.
For the record, Abigail checked in at six pounds, 13 ounces and 21 inches.
INJURY REPORT: There were a few important changes to the injury report Friday.
Running back Steven Jackson (chest) and free safety Michael Hawthorne (ankle) were upgraded from questionable to probable after getting more repetitions during Friday’s practice. Both are expected to start against the Giants.
Tight end/fullback Brandon Manumaleuna was downgraded to questionable because of a knee injury suffered against the Titans. Manumaleuna was probably for most of the week, but the knee has stayed sore and he missed a good portion of practice Friday.
Joining Hawthorne and Jackson as probable are quarterback Marc Bulger (ribs) and guard Tom Nütten (toe). Bruce (toe) and tackle Rex Tucker (calf) remain doubtful for this weekend.
For the Giants, cornerback Will Peterson is officially out for Sunday’s game because of a back injury that could sideline him even longer than this week.
Linebacker Carlos Emmons (knee) and running back Derrick Ward (hamstring) were added as questionable yesterday and missed most of Friday’s practice. Joining that pair as questionable are linebacker Barrett Green (knee/ankle), returner/running back Chad Morton (hamstring) and cornerback Corey Webster (quad).
Peterson, Emmons and Ward are the only three from that group to miss some or all of Friday’s practice.
Re: Incognito Gets Fresh Start
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Jada joins a brother, Mason, and sister, Alexa. Height, weight and 40 time were unavailable.