- The Washington Times - Wednesday, November 26, 2008

ST. LOUIS (AP) - Richie Incognito was in the spotlight for the wrong reasons last week, criticizing the St. Louis Rams’ dwindling fan base, making an obscene gesture to a TV cameraman during practice and encouraging hecklers while cupping his hands to his ears as he left Sunday’s game.

The day after a 27-3 home loss to the Bears, coach Jim Haslett summoned Incognito to his office. After the Rams returned to practice Wednesday, the admittedly high-strung offensive guard apologized to fans.

“Coach said it’s time to pay the piper,” Incognito said. “You’ve got to go down there and make an apology, which I felt was in line. It stirred some people up, and an apology is in order.”

Haslett told Incognito on Monday that the Rams (2-9) “would not stand for that anymore,” and he was glad to hear of the lineman’s remorse. Tantrums aside, he said Incognito has been the Rams’ best lineman this season.

“If he said it, he was sincere, I’m sure of that,” Haslett said. “The guy is a good player, and obviously he’s got to control his emotions. Hopefully as he goes on in his career and (he’ll) understand that part of it.”

Addressing the 50-50 mix of Rams’ and opponents’ fans at home games all this season and much of 2007, Incognito said last week Rams fans “don’t know how to cheer, when to cheer.” The fans booed him Sunday after a false start penalty, and took him up on his dare to boo louder as he walked toward the locker room.

Incognito wasn’t surprised by the reaction of fans who he reasoned were looking for a target given the Rams’ poor season. He didn’t mind, either, saying he was “as wound up as they come.”

“We’re a 2-9 team and you’ve got some unproven guy on the team saying the fans don’t know how to cheer and when to cheer, so obviously it’s going to stir up some controversy,” Incognito said. “For me personally, I love it. The atmosphere in the dome was great.

“Boo me, do whatever you want to get me fired up, I thrive in a negative environment like that.”

Incognito proclaimed himself the team “Sheriff” after throwing himself into a preseason practice skirmish between Steven Jackson and safety Oshiomogho Atogwe in 2007, causing an escalation rather than his stated intention of breaking it up. He’ll do whatever it takes to get under opponents’ skin, intentionally bumping into Jets nose tackle Kris Jenkins while walking off the field earlier in the year.

“I love playing in opposing stadiums with the fans yelling at you,” Incognito said. “I get hyped up and I play better that way, but it’s a distraction to everybody on this team and really, I appreciate the fans’ support.

“It was a deal where I kind of talked a little too much.”

Center Brett Romberg was walking off the field next to Incognito, shaking his head, as the lineman began taunting fans after Sunday’s game.

“For the scoreboard not to reflect how you as a person is playing, it’s frustrating,” Romberg said. “Hopefully, Richie is actually running off the field cheering with the fans this week.”

Notes:@ CB Tye Hill will likely miss his eighth straight game recovering from knee surgery and Haslett appears to be frustrated. “I don’t know what the timeframe is on him. It’s been a long time already.” … On the other hand, LB Chris Draft (broken foot) could return next week after missing four games. “He works hard at it and he’s got a high pain threshold,” Haslett said.

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