By Bill Coats
ST. LOUIS POST-DISPATCH
09/30/2005


As a youngster, Richie Incognito spent five years in the Boy Scouts, whose oath includes a promise to "keep myself physically strong, mentally awake, and morally straight."

He's plenty strong at 6 feet 3 and 305 pounds. And he scored a 32 on the Wonderlic test at the NFL Scouting combine, which is considered excellent. As for the third part ...

"I have some things in my past, like most people do," said Incognito, the Rams' third-round draft pick in April. "I've grown up and overcome those things. I'm a grown man now, so ... new chapter."

The road that Incognito traveled to Rams Park, where he arrived Thursday after signing a four-year, $1.934 million contract, was filled with potholes. After two standout seasons at Nebraska, he was booted from the squad when he was found guilty of misdemeanor assault stemming from a fight at a party.

Previously, Incognito had been suspended for a variety of indiscretions, including being ejected from a game for fighting.

Those problems probably are part of the reason he fell from first-round status to No. 81 overall in the draft. Another factor was concern about the broken kneecap he suffered at the combine. He had surgery in late April and rehabbed in his hometown of Phoenix while his agent, Jack Scharf, negotiated with the Rams.

Because of the injury, there was little urgency to sign Incognito. He was the last of the league's 255 draft picks to come to terms.

"Rehabbing, it's a long road, it's hard, it's step-by- step, day-by-day," he said. "Now I'm really at the end of it, where I'm running and getting back to the athletic side of things. So I'm real excited about that."

Incognito was placed on the non-football injury/reserve list. As such, he must remain on the sideline until at least Oct. 18 - the start of Week 6 in the NFL. In a 21-day period that follows, Incognito can begin practice. Then the team will have three weeks to decide whether to activate him.

Incognito, who played left tackle at Nebraska, will work at center first, but that doesn't mean he'll wind up there. "Wherever they need me, tackle, guard, center, I'll play anywhere," he said.

If Incognito is not added to the roster, he'll go on injured reserve, and he won't be eligible to play this season. Incognito wants no part of the final option. "I have a lot of desire to get on the field this year," he said. "That's the ultimate goal."

Fair returns

Cornerback Terry Fair was back at Rams Park on Friday after a one-day hiatus. Under NFL roster rules, someone had to be cut Thursday to make room for Incognito. Once he officially was put on the non-football injury/reserve list, Fair was returned to the roster.

"It was a big shock to me, but just talking with Coach (Mike Martz), I was pretty confident it was going to be a short process, and it was," said Fair, who is recovering from a neck injury suffered Aug. 29 in an exhibition game in Detroit. "I didn't really worry about it. I just took it as a technicality."

Furrey's ready

It looks like Michael Hawthorne will start at free safety against the Giants despite suffering a game-ending sprained ankle late in the third quarter against Tennessee. Hawthorne, who refused to talk to reporters Friday, was upgraded to probable from questionable.

If Hawthorne can't go, or has a setback against the Giants, converted wide receiver Mike Furrey says he's ready.

Ram-blings

Two ewes were added to the Rams family this week. On Thursday, defensive tackle Ryan Pickett's wife, Jennifer, gave birth to 6-pound, 13-ounce Abigail Alice, their second child. On Friday, guard Adam Timmerman and wife Jana welcomed 5-pound, 3-ounce Jada Lynn. The Timmermans have two other children. ... Rookie running back Brandon Jacobs, a fourth-round draft pick from Southern Illinois University Carbondale, has carried 10 times for 44 yards and two touchdowns for the Giants. Jacobs, 6-4 and 256 pounds, is used mostly in short-yardage situations.