MINNEAPOLIS — Raiders guard Richie Incognito played in his 151st NFL game Sunday when he started at left guard for the Raiders in a 34-14 loss to the Vikings at U.S. Bank Stadium. But he said he felt like a rookie.
“It was kind of weird because I had this rookie excitement for the game,” said Incognito, who was making his season debut after serving a two-game suspension. “But the veteran in me for 150 games was just like, ‘Hey, calm down. It’s all good. Just do what you do.’ It felt good. We got out there, couple pass plays, couple run plays and knocked some people around and knocked some people on the ground. Back to ball.”
It was a day Incognito thought would never come. The controversial figure was released before the start of last season by the Buffalo Bills over a contract dispute after he waffled on retiring.
The 36-year-old missed the entire 2018 season and was involved in several high-profile incidents, including a frightening escapade at a funeral home following his father’s death.
When he decided to return to the game this year and signed with the Raiders, he was hit with the two-game suspension for violating the league’s personal conduct policy.
“Definitely there were some dark days where I thought I’d never play again,” he said. “That’s why the rookie excitement was coming out. I’ve been in the league a long time. I was just excited and grateful. A lot went into it. I used it as motivation. I used it as fuel to get here. I couldn’t have done it by myself. I had a ton of people with me helping, calling, checking in. I couldn’t have done it without their help.”
Incognito cited his mother, brother and stepfather for assisting him in getting back on track off the field, which allowed him to get back on the field.
He was playing for someone else on Sunday, though.
“Right around kickoff, I was just feeling grateful for the opportunity and thinking about my dad and all the ballgames he’s been to, and I really just wanted to play for him today and honor my dad,” Incognito said of his father, Richard Sr., who died since Incognito played his last game on Jan. 7, 2018. “I thought I played well. Disappointed we didn’t get the win, but considering everything on my end … I’m just extremely grateful to have the opportunity to continue competing.”
Even though he practiced all week and was not listed on the injury report, Raiders wide receiver Ryan Grant was inactive Sunday after starting the first two games. He struggled in last week’s loss to the Chiefs.
That left the Raiders with just four active receivers. Injured Dwayne Harris and newcomer Trevor Davis also didn’t play.
Running back Josh Jacobs played despite an illness that caused him to drop 10 pounds this week.
He carried the ball 10 times for 44 yards and didn’t catch either of his two targets. Jacobs also came out of the game on several early downs, but head coach Jon Gruden said it wasn’t related to injury or illness.
“We fell behind,” Gruden said. “Most of the time you become limited when that happens. We had a two-minute drive at the end of the half and were down 28-7 before you knew it. It was tough to get anybody in rhythm.”
Gruden didn’t provide updates on linebackers Marquel Lee (left ankle) and Vontaze Burfict (right elbow), who were injured during Sunday’s loss.
More information is expected to be available when Gruden addresses the media on Monday.
Starting right tackle Trent Brown, who entered the game as questionable with a sore knee, briefly exited during a drive in the second half. He returned but was limping as he left the locker room.