He was cut from the New York Jets, and with good reason, after an altercation with Jets' QB Geno Smith resulted in injuries that will keep the Jets' quarterback off the field for six to 10 weeks. But Bills head coach Rex Ryan, who feels he knows Enemkpali well enough after their season together in New York last year, convinced management that the young linebacker was worth claiming off waivers.
"I think first off we all know what happened," said Ryan of Enemkpali's fight with Smith Tuesday.
"Obviously it was a terrible thing that happened, and IK made a mistake there's no question about that. But instead of listening to this person or that person, we had IK last year. A lot of us were around IK and he was a good teammate. It's as simple as that.
"His background, he was a former captain of his (college) team. He was a good teammate."
Ryan had Enemkpali in his last season as Jets head coach in 2014 after the team made him a sixth-round pick. He also played under Bills defensive coordinator Dennis Thurman. Buffalo's head coach is relying on his own knowledge of the young linebacker as a person and believes he can be a potential contributor on Buffalo's roster.
"The big thing about this is if we didn't think that this young man or anybody else could be successful on the football field, in our locker room or in our community he would not be here," said Ryan. "I know I've said that before about other people and I mean it."
Ryan has not yet spoken to Enemkpali since the incident with Smith took place, but said he spoke to other people about the linebacker and what happened. He's also fully aware that the NFL could conduct an investigation into the incident between Enemkpali and Smith and levy a suspension against the linebacker.
Both GM Doug Whaley and owner Terry Pegula put their trust in Ryan's judgment in agreeing to put a waiver claim in for Enemkpali.
"I think when we went in Doug (Whaley) and myself talked to Terry (Pegula) today and Doug is leaning on me about this," Ryan said. "Obviously the Bills did their research when this young man came out as we did when I was with the Jets. We researched him and this isn't just a bad guy. I think he made a mistake, clearly made a mistake, but I just know first-hand being around this young man for a year that I feel very confident that he'll be just fine here."
"It's a concern that everybody's going to have because the guy made a mistake," said GM Doug Whaley. "But again, whoever hasn't made a mistake can come talk to me. With what we're building, and the confidence we have in our coach, and our locker room, and the star players and team captains, we feel confident. This guy is going to walk in and he's going to know what's expected and he'll fall in line. He knows he's on a short leash."
Ryan said Enemkpali will line up as an edge rusher as a backup to Jerry Hughes, though he does not have the same skill set. He'll also see work on special teams.
"He's a different kind of player than Jerry, but probably back up that position and a special teams contributor," said Ryan. "He'll run down and he's an aggressive player and a physical player. So I think the young man has a chance to develop into a decent football player."
Buffalo's sideline boss made it clear that it is wrong to hit anyone be it a teammate or anyone else in the workplace, but Ryan also believes Enemkpali has the character makeup to redeem himself.
"Nothing justifies hitting somebody, and I recognize that it was a mistake, but I also believe that he's going to learn from it," said Ryan. "We'll give him a chance to compete. There's no guarantee that this young man makes this team. But I do have supreme confidence in myself especially when I know the individual. That's where that comes from. I feel good. I've been around IK for a year."
As for the rest of Buffalo's roster and how they might feel, Ryan said he knows his players are putting their trust in him that he's right about Enemkpali.
"You can look at every person in (our) locker room and not everybody is perfect. Nobody is perfect," he said. "They know I feel in my heart that this young man will be successful for us."