TAMPA, Fla. (AP) — The Tampa Bay Buccaneers are going to meet with Richie Incognito to determine if one of the central figures in the Miami Dolphins bullying scandal can help their struggling offensive line.
Coach Lovie Smith emphasized Monday that while the Bucs had arranged a "visit" by the free agent guard, a signing wasn't necessarily imminent.
An NFL investigation determined Incognito and two other Miami offensive linemen engaged in persistent harassment of teammate Jonathan Martin, who left the team in the middle of last season. Incognito was suspended and missed the final eight games before becoming a free agent when his contract with the Dolphins expired.
Smith said it would "jumping the gun" to assume the Bucs will sign Incognito but that he would enter the meeting late Monday with an open mind.
"We look at everyone who's available. It's no more than that. We haven't signed anyone," Smith said. "We owe it to ourselves to compare our roster to what's out there, and Richie's a part of that. So I think we should just wait and let the process take care of itself and go from there."
The Buccaneers overhauled their offensive line after last season, beginning with the release of two-time Pro Bowl guard Davin Joseph. The unit suffered another blow when the team announced on the opening day of training camp that it was releasing projected starter Carl Nicks, who missed most of last season with a MRSA infection.
Smith bristled when he was repeatedly asked if bringing in Incognito for a visit, and possibly signing him, might upset the locker room.
"We look at all available guys, period. What does it hurt to look at someone who's available," the coach said.
"Would I have a football player on our team that I thought would mess up our team chemistry. The answer is no. Simple as that," Smith added. "But I can't assume that's the case. To me, you go through the process. You look and you talk face to face with everybody that's available. That's what we're doing."
Incognito has long been labeled one of the NFL's dirtiest players with a reputation for out-of-bounds behavior off the field.
"I've heard what happened down (in Miami). But for me, I think it doesn't hurt anything to talk face to face with anybody that's available," Smith said, later adding: "I can't go on hearsay. I need to see for myself."
Several players, including quarterback Josh McCown and Pro Bowl defensive tackle Gerald McCoy said Incognito would be welcomed to the team if Incognito winds up being signed.