ALAMEDA (CBS / AP) — Oakland Raiders offensive coordinator Greg Olson is more troubled than he is surprised by the news surrounding suspended Miami Dolphins offensive lineman Richie Incognito.
Olson spent two years coaching Incognito when the two were together in St. Louis from 2006-07. Olson was the Rams’ offensive coordinator while Incognito, a third-round draft pick in 2005, was still in the infancy of his NFL career.
Even then there were signs of potential issues with the 6-foot-3, 320-pound Incognito, whom Olson describes as being very high strung.
While Olson didn’t have any problems with the player himself, he said Incognito appeared to be a player who “was going to need help” after he and former Rams coach Steve Spagnuolo got into a heated confrontation in 2009.
“That wasn’t the Richie I knew,” Olson said Thursday. “He went over the top there at the end in St. Louis. I thought at that point, `This guy’s going to need help. He’ll never play again in the National Football League.’
“Then I had a chance to visit with him when I was in Tampa (and I) just felt like he had turned the corner in terms of maturity and … being responsible in his actions.”
Incognito was suspended by the Dolphins on Sunday night for conduct detrimental to the team amid accusations he bullied and threatened teammate Jonathan Martin, who has since left the team.
The situation has set off a firestorm across the country as fans, team executives, coaches and players have taken sides in the debate over the culture in an NFL locker room.
Olson has remained on friendly terms with Incognito and spoke with him by telephone this week. Olson wouldn’t go into detail over what the two spoke about but said the lineman believes the situation with Martin has been taken out of context.
“He felt like he had a good relationship in that locker room, not only with the player in question but most of the players in the locker room,” Olson said. “It’s disappointing the things we’re reading and hearing. You just hope it’s not true.”
Incognito has had a history of troubling incidents dating back to college. Similar issues followed him into the NFL, as Incognito got into fights with his St. Louis teammates on at least two occasions.
The incident with Spagnuolo was the breaking point for the Rams, who released Incognito in December 2009. Olson, who had since left St. Louis and was with Tampa Bay at the time, reached out to Incognito and was convinced his former player had changed.
However, Olson was hardly surprised when he first heard news of the Incognito-Martin situation.
Incognito’s harassment of Martin included text messages that were racist and threatening, two people familiar with the situation have told The Associated Press. The people spoke to the AP on condition of anonymity because the Dolphins and NFL haven’t disclosed the nature of the misconduct that led to Incognito’s suspension.
“It’s sad to see how it’s played out,” Olson said. “(Incognito) brings an element of that’s what he is, he’s an element of toughness. His personality is high-strung, very high-strung. He was a tough player. But the other things outside of that, I just think it’s really sad and you just hope that it’s not true what’s being said out there.”
Notes: Running back Darren McFadden (hamstring) missed his second straight day of practice. Cornerback D.J. Hayden also missed Thursday’s workout because of a sore groin he originally hurt in practice on Wednesday. “We’ll have to evaluate him and see how quickly that thing responds,” Raiders coach Dennis Allen said. … PK Sebastian Janikowski (ribs) did some light kicking and was limited but is expected to play Sunday in New York.
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