Production is critical for an NFL player. The exhaust that comes as a result of that production can be tolerated to a point. When that exhaust becomes more apparent than the production, a change may be made.
The Miami Dolphins dealt with plenty of exhaust throughout the 2013 season in the form of allegations of bullying from their talented by outspoken guard Richie Incognito. The things said and did to tackle Jonathan Martin, things that allegedly caused Martin to up and quit the team - and earned Incognito a suspension - have been passed back and forth through the media for months now.
Both Martin and Incognito are free agents, and how the market will react to either of them creates a sub-story in itself.
Steelers safety Ryan Clark spoke about the situation on ESPN's First Take, appearing to represent the side of Incognito - talent and attitude trump political correctness.
"The only person that I know that knows Richie Incognito personally said the day after (the story broke), ‘If Richie Incognito gets cut I'm walking upstairs and telling coach to pick him up,' " Clark said, as quoted by ESPN's Scott Brown."He's like, 'That's the type of football player I want to play with. All of that stuff in the locker room, that's how they act, that's how they talked but as far as playing football I want you to play nasty, I want you to be like that.' "
It's perhaps hypocritical to ask players to be the savages they are on the field, but well-adjusted, societally-accepted gentlemen off it. To an extent, the exhaust created from their physical toils is understandable. The real trick is the fact fans view the game in a completely different lens than the player do; average joes have dealt with HR-enforced corporate jobs and have a strong understanding of how the world works in the shoes of people making the median salary in this country.
To oversimplify, odds are good Clark isn't speaking on behalf of the only player who feels Incognito's alleged actions are simply the drawback of a player who plays with a mean streak. There's no sense in speculating whether Clark was referring to a player on the Steelers, but you have to think there are players who feel it isn't an issue - or at least one that can be contained by strong locker room leadership or even, dare I suggest it, a culture that's a bit more open to his behavior.
What we can bank on, right or wrong, is Incognito will have a job in the NFL in 2014. Owners and general managers will be perfectly fine with "giving him a second chance," which is their way of saying "we're super excited to sign a big-time talent for veteran minimum, knowing he needs to fall in line if he wants to make more in the future."
So Clark's statement will likely be proved partially right. The question really is how much can a player get away with before dealing with punishment more severe than just a loss of a paycheck for half a season?
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