Bills general manager Brandon Beane confirmed on Tuesday that the NFL has opened an investigation into the accusation by Jacksonville’s Yannick Ngakoue that Buffalo’s Richie Incognito used a racial slur during Sunday’s AFC wild-card playoff game.
“We’re looking into it,” Beane said during a joint press conference with coach Sean McDermott which was held to wrap up the just concluded season. “I’ve spoken with the league, we’re going to follow a protocol, and that’s where it’s at.”
Sunday night, Ngakoue sent out a tweet indicating that Incognito had used a racial slur, and he did not back down from his comment Monday when he spoke to reporters in Jacksonville.
“I’ve been playing this game for 12 or 13 years and have never heard anything like that,” Ngakoue said. “When somebody says something about your ethnicity, that’s taking it too far. ... You can’t say certain things.”
Incognito did not speak to reporters Monday when the media was in the locker room for a 75-minute period of time as the players packed up their belongings.
He still has not commented on the accusation, though Beane said Incognito is trying to reach out to Ngakoue. Beane did not know if that contact has been made.
Given Incognito’s history, specifically his eight-game suspension in 2013 for his role in the bullying scandal of former Dolphins teammate Jonathan Martin where he was found to have used racial and homophobic insults, this could prove to be a sticky situation for the offensive guard who has been named to the Pro Bowl all three of his seasons in Buffalo.
Beane was asked if the organization would support Incognito, and he said, “We’re always going to support our players.” Pressed further, and asked whether this could ultimately cost Incognito his job with the team, Beane said, “We’re still in the fact-finding part of the situation. It’s really early, so it would be total speculation.”
Beane did not want to elaborate on exactly what he knows at this point.
“The league is doing their investigation, we understand his side and some of the other guys that heard, but until we get it finalized, I don’t want to comment on it,” he said. “From what I understand, it was a little bit of on-the-field stuff back and forth. There was definitely an exchange, and I think there’s a misunderstanding of what was said.”
Ngakoue said Monday, “There (were) 22 players on the field yesterday; I’m pretty sure I’m not the only person who heard (it).”
However, no one in Jacksonville has concurred with Ngakoue, claiming they didn’t hear whatever Incognito might have said.
Ex-Bill Marcell Dareus was one of the players who said he wasn’t aware of an exchange. “I have no comment on that,” Dareus said. “I don’t know anything about it.”
In the Buffalo locker room, offensive linemen Eric Wood and Dion Dawkins, who line up on either side of Incognito, also said they didn’t hear what Ngakoue has insinuated.
“It was chippy out there, but I didn’t hear anything,” said Wood. “Richie has done a lot the last few years to restore his image and I hope it’s not all thrown away based on speculation, but I didn’t hear it, so I can’t really speak on it.”
Dawkins, who is African-American, came to Incognito’s defense Sunday night on Twitter, and then said Monday, “I would have been one of the first people to basically check him on it because there’s race — there’s a lot of things going on in this country.
There’s boundaries. If he did overstep, I would have said something.”
McDermott was asked what he knew, and all he would say is, “They won the game, and the whole situation is unfortunate. I’ll leave it at that.”