The controversy swirling around Miami Dolphin Richie Incognito — suspended for allegedly bullying teammate Jonathan Martin — comes from a rough-and-tumble sport where behavior sometimes pushes the envelope, according to Ryan Riddle, a former All-American and NFL defensive end.
"We have to keep in mind and remember that at the end of the day this is football, these guys are getting paid to beat each other up, they're getting paid to make some of the strongest men in the world bleed, to knock them over, to smash their heads in, put mud in their face," Riddle told "The Steve Malzberg Show" on Newsmax TV.
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"And under that context, the way that grown men are going to … interact behind closed doors — outside of media and PR and what everyone else in the outside world thinks — that's going to be a different-sounding environment than maybe a professional office that has to keep everything very professional and PC, so to speak."
Incognito was suspended after he reportedly leaving voice mails for Martin that contained racial slurs and threats of physical violence.
According to a report in the Sun Sentinel newspaper, Dolphins coaches asked Incognito to “toughen up” Martin after the second-year tackle missed a voluntary workout last spring.
Riddle — a columnist for Bleacher Report who once played for the Oakland Raiders, New York Jets, Atlanta Falcons, and Baltimore Ravens — said there should be a liberal give-and-take between players and their coaches in professional football.
"Football coaches in general should have the ability without any backlash to want to toughen a player up and even ask another player to do that. Did they ask the wrong player? It apparently appears so," he said.
"We don't even know whether or not he or any coach has done this. But I would not bring out the pitchforks and the ropes and hang a coach for saying something like that. You want to toughen up players and there's various ways to do that.
"Obviously, anything Richie Incognito was doing was not productive and he didn't realize the inner turmoil that Jonathan Martin was going through."
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