Incognito Poised to Return
Wednesday, December 2, 2009

By Nick Wagoner
Senior Writer

Upon paying a visit to medical specialists in Los Angeles under the umbrella of Athletes Performance Inc., Rams guard Richie Incognito had an open mind about progressive, new-age treatments that might speed up his recovery from a Lisfranc injury in his foot.

But even a man as big and tough as Incognito has his limits.

“You go out there and they have this guy for this and this guy for this,” Incognito said.
“You want to do as much as possible and there’s some stuff, you think to yourself ‘Ehhhh, I don’t know if you are going to poke me with that needle right now. I am not feeling that.’ I was fine with the acupuncture but I saw him do this one to someone else. The needle goes in a little further, this, that and the other thing. This day and age, there are so many different ideas on getting healthy and so many different ways you can do it.”

In the end, all that really matters is that when you reach the end of the rehabilitation road you are healthy. And from early indications on Wednesday, Incognito has finally reached that point after suffering the foot injury way back on Oct. 25 against Indianapolis.

The road to recovery has been a long one, one that has been difficult for Incognito to watch, especially considering the team’s record.

When Incognito went on the shelf, the offensive line had just begun to click. Running back Steven Jackson had rushed for 134 yards against the Colts that day and the previous week against Jacksonville, Incognito and the line had allowed just a single sack.

All told, things were just beginning to get rolling for the Rams’ revamped offensive line and perhaps nobody was providing a more physical, set the tone attitude than Incognito.

Making matters more frustrating was the fact that the first game Incognito missed was the team’s first win of the season, a victory Incognito had to watch from home.

“It’s extremely tough to sit around and watch the team play,” Incognito said. “When I got injured, we were playing at such a high level. Then you get injured and you kind of push it aside and you are just sitting at home watching the Detroit game thinking I want to be there with these guys fighting for a win. It’s extremely tough as a competitor and it was a learning process. I have been injured before where it’s ended my season but I’ve never been injured before where I had to rehab, come back and finish the season. I am looking forward to finishing strong.”

Incognito practiced for the first time Wednesday since he suffered the injury against the Colts.

In the previous week’s game against Jacksonville, Incognito injured his ankle but he played through it the following week in practice and against Indianapolis.
During that game, Incognito dropped back in pass protection and felt a wobble in his foot that caused him to fall to the ground. He finished the series gingerly and when he got to the sideline, he knew it was something somewhat serious.

Over the course of the next couple of days, Incognito said the foot only got sorer and he knew something was wrong. An X ray revealed the Lisfranc injury and Incognito had to put on a cast.

Incognito spent the next two weeks off of the foot and in the cast. After that, he spent another two weeks working to get his range of motion back. He spent last week working to get his conditioning and football speed up.

Along the way, Incognito explored all options to help get back on the field sooner than later.

“Once I was injured I switched my focus from playing ball to getting healthy,” Incognito said. “I was going to do everything possible to get healthy. I went back to Arizona to see my physical therapist down there, trips out to L.A. to meet with this new guy who’s got this new technique and all sorts of things like that. My focus went from playing at a high level to getting healthy to get myself prepared to play at a high level again here at the end of the year.”

Before last week’s game against Seattle, Incognito was on the field before the game attempting to test out the foot to see if there was a chance he could be active and able to play against the Seahawks.

According to Incognito, the foot got worse as he ran on it more and he eventually had to again be on the pregame inactive list.

Incognito participated in almost all of Wednesday’s practice and says he is on pace to play this weekend against Chicago, though that is not set in stone yet.

“From here through Sunday, I need to be full participation, no setbacks, no tweaking of the foot,” Incognito said. “If the foot feels 100 percent day to day I will play this weekend.”

While the offensive line continued to play well for the most part in Incognito’s absence, mostly due to the yeoman’s work of super-sub Adam Goldberg, Incognito gives the Rams a physical presence that draws the ire and fear of opposing defenders.

“I think everybody knows what Richie can bring to the table,” center Jason Brown said. “He definitely has a toughness he brings to the game that a lot of people take the wrong way. Sometimes they say he is over aggressive but you know what? I love his aggressiveness out there.”

Incognito’s return couldn’t come at a better time, considering the banged up nature of the offensive line.

Brown missed the first practice of his career on Wednesday because of a knee injury and tackle Jason Smith is still recovering from a concussion. Although it remains possible both could be available this weekend, getting Incognito book could provide the offense a boost after a tough day against the Seahawks.

“(It’s) just another physical guy,” quarterback Kyle Boller said. “A guy that has been a starter. He might give us an extra spark. He’s a great player and we look forward to having him back.”

Nobody is looking more forward to his return than Incognito, though. Scheduled for unrestricted free agency (possibly, depending on the CBA situation), Incognito is entering a key stretch run for his future in St. Louis.

But that is far from Incognito’s focus upon his return.

“We were playing at a real high level and then it continued after I was out,” Incognito said. “They went to Detroit and got a win and the boys came together as a unit, all five guys and then played well against New Orleans and Arizona. I am looking to come back and just help this offensive line get back to where we were.”