The Bottom Line: The NFL forgives anything if you can play.
Guard Richie Incognito is finished in Miami. We have the Dolphin's word on that. Despite what you may think, Incognito will find a home in the NFL after time in the penalty box.
Pro Bowl linemen are too hard to come by. Incognito isn't the first player to engage in dumb jock behavior, nor will he be the last. in fact, Incognito's history as a troubled, insensitive soul was known to every team he played for.
Football isn't for choir boys.
Who are the baddest bad boys who continued their NFL careers after public notoriety? Here's are the top five players to survive scandal and then thrive in the NFL . We didn't have to dig deep to find them. The list should encourage Mr. Incognito.
No. 5, Riley Cooper, Fence-jumping N-word fighter.
Cooper was the target of Twitterverse outrage when video emerged of his alcohol-fueled outburst against a security guard at a Kenny Chesney concert. Cooper's behavior was so shocking that even Chesney apologized out of concern that all of his fans would be deemed Cooper-like idiots.
Cooper admitted disgust at his own behavior. The Philadelphia Eagles suspended him on August 2 amid widespread speculation of his release. The Eagles reinstated him August 6, quicker than Chip Kelly's hurry-up offense. Cooper returned to the club a reformed man. Apparently.
No. 4, Pacman Jones, Living large in America's strip clubs
Adam "Pacman" Jones lived down to his reputation of unrestrained off-field behavior that tarnished the image when he played for the Tennessee Titans. Pacman was suspended for a year for involvement in a 2007 incident, that left a bouncer at aLas Vegas "gentlemen's club" paralyzed. Pacman was accused of hitting a woman at an Atlanta strip club during his suspension.
The Titans expressed their intent to trade Pacman after his suspension. Jones broadcast his wish to be traded to the Dallas Cowboys. The Lions, Raiders, Chiefs and Saints expressed interest. The Cowboys signed him and structured a support group to keep him out of trouble. Jones assaulted one of his bodyguards triggering another NFL suspension. The Cowboys cut their ties and Jones spent 2008 with the CFL.
Jones dropped his Packman baby name after Dallas fired him. He is now plays cornerback for the Cincinnati Bengals.
No. 3, Terrell Owens, Emotionally and financially needy
T.O. never assaulted anyone, nor hit a woman and if he visits gentlemen's clubs, he behaves as a gentleman. But Owens did something much worse in the eyes of fans. In the most team-oriented of team sports, Owens put himself ahead of others.
Owens signed a 2004 free agent contract with the Philadelphia Eagles against the advice of the Player's Union and others, according to media reports at the time. Owens wanted to receive for Donovan McNabb who was then in his prime. The Eagles were an ascending team. Owens saw them as his best shot to win a Super Bowl.
The Eagles reached the Super Bowl following the '04 season on the strength of the McNabb-Owens connection. Owens overcame a broken fibula to play brilliantly in the losing effort. He was the most popular athlete in America at that point. Then T.O. blew it.
One year into his seven-year contract with the Eagles, the deal he was advised not to sign, Owens agitated for a new contract that would make him the league's best-paid receiver. He was not among the Top 10 best paid with his Eagles deal. He pouted and spouted and snitted his way to non-cooperation with the team while casting aspersions against McNabb as if he were Jeff Garcia.
The Eagles deactivated him before releasing him. Fan perceptions of him were damaged beyond repair. The Cowboys snapped him up, reportedly against the wishes of head coach Bill Parcells. Parcells remains silent about it. Owens remained in Dallas for three seasons, then spent a year in Buffalo and Cincinnati. He never returned to the Super Bowl. It turned out that the Eagles and McNabb were his best shot.
Owens hopes to sign with another team. I hope to sign for a Lamborghini.
No. 2, Ray Lewis, Obstructer of justice
Lets be very clear. Ray Lewis didn't kill anyone. While attending a post-Super Bowl party in 2000, members of Lewis' entourage got into a fight near an Atlanta night club that led to the deaths of two men. The details are fuzzy about who started the fight. According to trial testimony, Lewis acted to get his crew away from the scene.
Then he engaged in the conspiracy of silence that made it difficult for authorities to figure out what happened. The suit Lewis wore that night might have contained blood evidence, but has disappeared.
In a maneuver worthy of the old Law and Order series, Fulton County prosecutors charged Lewis with murder to compel him to flip on his co-defendants. Lewis accepted a plea deal of misdemeanor obstruction of justice in return for testifying for the prosecution at the 2004 trial. Despite his testimony, the jury acquitted the defendants. They might have acquitted Lewis of murder had ne not accepted the plea deal.
Lewis had a Hall of Fame-worthy career with Baltimore that ended in 2012.
No. 1, Michael Vick, Puppy killer
In 2007, Michael Vick and Peyton Manning were the two most popular players in football. Both were working under $100 million contracts. Vick's secret life as the financier of a dog fighting ring exploded when county police suspected his cousin of dealing drugs and tailed him to the Surry County, Virginia, property that Vick owned, but where relatives lived.
Vick threw his cousin under the bus by accusing him of dog fighting, which Vick knew nothing about. It was the first of many lies Vick would tell to county officials, team owners, the NFL commissioner, his adoring public and to himself.
In fact Vick's cousin had nothing to do with the operation (nor was he ever charged with dealing drugs, the suspicion that brought county officials to the property.) Vick secretly visited the property in and out of season in the dead of night to see his dogs in combat. They weren't very good. Vick lost money on the side bets. The dogs that showed little promise as fighters ‒ and might have made nice pets ‒ were killed. Vick admitted to killing "only" one of them.
Vick pled guilty when his co-defendants flipped on him in return for lesser sentences. He was sentenced to 23 months in federal prison for a charge few were even jailed for until then.
With the endorsement of Super Bowl coach Tony Dungy, Philadelphia signed Vick for a pittance, a one-year, $1.6 million deal. After a brilliant 2010 campaign, the Eagles signed Vick to a six-year, $100 million deal, essentially replacing the contract he lost with the Falcons.
Vick's future with Chip Kelly's Eagles is uncertain. A team will sign him if Philadelphia lets him go. When Vick walks up to the line of his new team, he may find one of his guardians to be Richie Incognito.
When Incogniyo returns, he will rank fifth on this list displacing Riley Cooper.
NOTE: To make this story work, the author described the players as they were viewed at the height of their controversy. Readers should not take the description a strictly accurate. My lawyer made me say that.