The bully of the Bills: Has he improved himself as a person and teammate?

Incognito signing ‘disheartening’ but a potential opportunity, says director of UB’s Alberti Center for Bullying Abuse Prevention

Release Date: February 12, 2015 This content is archived.

Amanda Nickerson.

Amanda Nickerson

“It sounds like the Pegulas and Coach Ryan have addressed this behavior with Incognito and are convinced that he has and will improve himself as a person and teammate.”
Amanda Nickerson, director, Alberti Center for Bullying Abuse Prevention
University at Buffalo

BUFFALO, N.Y. — Amanda B. Nickerson, director of the Alberti Center for Bullying Abuse Prevention at the University at Buffalo, called the Buffalo Bills’ signing of troubled guard Richie Incognito “disheartening,” especially following Bills Head Coach Rex Ryan’s press conference ambitions to “build a bully.”

“It almost seems like this is the next step in Coach (Rex) Ryan trying to actually achieve this,” said Nickerson, associate professor of counseling, school and educational psychology in UB’s Graduate School of Education.

The Bills signed Incognito Monday to a one-year contract, giving the nine-year guard another opportunity after the NFL indefinitely suspended him halfway through the 2013 season for his role in harassing teammate Jonathan Martin. The Dolphins cut Incognito, a one-time Pro Bowler widely considered one of the dirtiest players in the league.  He has been out of professional football since the end of the 2013 season.

Although Nickerson questioned the motives to sign Incognito — a player with a history of behavior that can be characterized as bullying and harassing to players and others, Nickerson says — she also called the signing “an opportunity, if handled correctly.”

“It sounds like the Pegulas (owners of the Bills) and Coach Ryan have addressed this behavior with Incognito and are convinced that he has and will improve himself as a person and teammate,” says Nickerson.

“It could be an opportunity for the Bills to reaffirm their commitment to positive youth development and character development by showing that they are giving a second chance to someone who has gotten help and is planning to make changes in his behavior.

“Unfortunately, the best predictor of future behavior is past behavior, and there seem to have been enough incidents that it would be unlikely to see a drastic change,” Nickerson said. “But since the deal is done, it will serve us best to remain hopeful that this will be a good move.”

Incognito, who will be 32 when the next Bills season begins, has been voted the NFL’s dirtiest player in various player polls over the years.

“We’re going to build a bully,” Ryan said at  Jan. 14 news conference announcing his appointment as the Bills’ head coach, “and we’re going to see if you’re going to play us for 60 minutes because we’re going to give everything we have every snap out there.

“That represents not just ourselves. It represents our community, and we’re proud to represent Buffalo. We’re going to earn it, earn that respect that our fans give.”

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