Incognito Cleared for NFL Return After Bullying Benching

Richie Incognito has been reinstated by the National Football League 10 months after he was suspended by the Miami Dolphins amid allegations that he bullied and harassed a teammate.

The 31-year-old offensive lineman, now a free agent, is allowed to sign with a team and play immediately, NFL spokesman Jon Zimmer said today in an e-mail.

Incognito was in Tampa yesterday meeting with the Buccaneers and is speaking with at least two more teams, according to ESPN. Buccaneers head coach Lovie Smith said yesterday that he believes in second chances.

“Nobody should have a death sentence,” Smith said. “What does it hurt to talk to someone? So for me, as we go forward, I’m not holier than thou. I’m going to give everybody the benefit of the doubt until I have information that tells me otherwise.”

Incognito was suspended by the Dolphins on Nov. 4, a week after fellow lineman Jonathan Martin walked out on the team alleging bullying and harassment by Incognito and others. Incognito later apologized for leaving an expletive-filled voice message in which he used a racial slur toward Martin. Incognito said in a televised interview that his treatment of Martin was a product of their locker room culture, not bullying.

“The way Jonathan and the rest of the offensive line and how our teammates communicate, it’s vulgar, it’s not right,” Incognito said. “I understand why a lot of eyebrows get raised, but people don’t know how Jon and I communicate.”

Persistently Taunted

A Feb. 14 report by investigator Ted Wells found that Incognito, John Jerry and Mike Pouncey persistently taunted Martin and an athletic trainer with racial, sexual and homophobic slurs. Martin was traded in March to the San Francisco 49ers; Incognito’s contract expired at the end of the season.

A 2012 Pro Bowl selection, Incognito has played for the St. Louis Rams, Buffalo Bills and Dolphins in his eight-year career.

Incognito had a base salary of $3.5 million last year. He has not played since Oct. 31.

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