After he sat out all last season—following a three-month suspension for bullying a fellow O-lineman in Miami—Buffalo signed the 32-year-old guard to a $1.1 million deal. On Aug. 2, he was named a starter.
DP:What does [Bills coach] Rex Ryan expect from you?
RI: To come in and be a great teammate. They did their research. They knew who I was and what I was about. They wanted me to be myself.
DP:What is it that we don't know?
RI: There were headlines, and then there's what actually went down.... It was like a hurricane. It came through, whipped everything around and we were all left to pick up the pieces.
DP:When was the last time you talked to Jonathan Martin?
RI: The day he walked out of that locker room.
DP:Did you ever try to reach out to him?
DP:It seems like there was back-and-forth in the texts between you two—off-color humor, locker room stuff. Is that fair?
RI: We were definitely good buddies. The banter was a two-way street. Only Jonathan knows how that affected him.
DP:Does the average fan understand the locker room culture?
RI: If you've never been in it, you'll never understand it.
DP:Has the controversy affected the way you play?
RI: It's not going to change the way I play football. I'm going to be physical. I'm going to grind on guys and play four quarters and impose my will on people.
DP:Where are the Bills compared with the Patriots?
RI: I'm not going to get into comparisons. We have a solid football team. We have a tremendous defense. The front seven is fierce. On offense we're building our identity. We want to be a smashmouth, hit-you-in-the-face, running football team.
DP:How important is it to you to beat the Dolphins next year?
RI: Very important. [Laughs.] I was there four years. I'm used to playing against them in practice. I want to get after them in a real game.
DP:C'mon, you want to whip 'em.
RI: No doubt. But that will just make it better when we grab drinks in the off-season.
DP:Are you angry at the Dolphins?
RI: Not at all. The whole situation, they handled it properly.
DP:You probably had no idea how serious this was.
RI: I knew the ramifications. I knew it was hot. I knew it was a big situation.
DP:Did the NFL require you to take anger-management classes?
RI: There was a checklist of things that I had to do to get back in the league. It was good for me. I learned from it. I took it seriously. I handled my business to get back to doing what I love.
Jerome Bettis admitted he had been anxious about his Hall of Fame bust before enshrinement weekend. "I'm very, very happy," the former Steelers fullback said. "It looks just like me. I didn't want to have a bust that was sitting there that looked like some other guy." ... USC coach Steve Sarkisian told me he would never avoid a postgame handshake with an opposing coach. "I think there are football gods," Sarkisian said. "You gotta respect the game. I'm not big on, Let's just score as many points as we can score." ... I asked Reggie Miller if he thinks Kobe Bryant will play beyond this season. "Yes," Miller said, "but it will not be with the Lakers. I cannot see Kobe Bryant, as competitive as he is, stop playing.... I can see him playing perhaps even overseas to end his career."
MICHAEL J. LEBRECHT II FOR SPORTS ILLUSTRATED (PATRICK)
KELLEN MICAH/ICON SPORTSWIRE/AP (INCOGNITO)
KARL WALTER/GETTY IMAGES (BETTIS)
ROBERT BECK FOR SPORTS ILLUSTRATED (SARKISIAN)
AL BELLO/GETTY IMAGES (MILLER)