Playing with emotion makes Ahmad Bradshaw one of the NFL’s toughest running backs.
Putting them on display Sunday with the running game struggling came close to getting the New York Giants veteran in big trouble with coach Tom Coughlin.
An angry and frustrated Bradshaw slapped Victor Cruz in the back of the helmet after the receiver missed a block on a third-quarter run, and then screamed at his 66-year-old coach minutes later to run the ball more as the offense went on the field following a Redskins’ turnover.
A disciplinarian, Coughlin yelled right back at Bradshaw.
The coach addressed the issue Monday with his No. 1 running back, but would not disclose what was said a day after the Giants (5-2) rallied for a 27-23 win over Washington on a 77-yard pass from Eli Manning to Victor Cruz with 1:13 to play.
”There’s never been any question about Ahmad Bradshaw’s toughness, his intensity level,” Coughlin said. ”He plays the game hard. You’d like to have everybody play as hard he plays, to be honest with you. He gives it everything he’s got. You want people to recognize that fact, but sometimes you do have to control yourself and control your emotions … and he’s working on it.”
Bradshaw said Coughlin’s response was as animated as his, but both men felt it was a heat-of-the-moment exchange.
”That is the thing about this team, we all just want to win and anything we can do to help, I think it helps,” said Bradshaw, who tossed his helmet after sitting on the bench following the incident.
Bradshaw, who had rushed for a combined 316 yards the previous two games, let his emotions get the best of him in the third quarter of a game in which Washington was stuffing New York’s run repeatedly. It started after a 15-yard run to the left, his longest run on an afternoon where he gained 43 yards on 12 carries.
The play had the potential for more, but Cruz missed a downfield block on Washington’s Madieu Williams and the safety upended Bradshaw. The running back quickly got up, went right at Cruz and screamed at him while slapping him in the back of the helmet.
Cruz laughed when asked if he suffered a concussion from the hard slap. But he also said he wasn’t offended, saying Bradshaw wants the best from everyone on the offense.
”We understand what kind of person Ahmad is and we understand he’s emotional and he wears his heart on his sleeve,” Cruz said. ”He’s the pulse of the offense sometimes. The way he runs the ball, he wants the ball every chance he gets. And we understand that. The emotions (are) just what he brings to the table. We respect it. Obviously from the outside looking in, it looks a little iffy.
”But all that matters is what we think about him in this locker room, and (on) the coaching staff.”
Manning said the Giants appreciate how Bradshaw works, especially in a week where he was bothered by a foot injury.
”He does a great job in running hard and I think he thought he had a shot to break even a bigger run on that play,” Manning said. ”So, he’s trying to make sure those guys know that he tries to do everything to protect and give them opportunities to make plays. He wants the same in return.”
Teammates had no problem with Bradshaw’s actions.
"Hey, if I’m going to a fight, I’m taking Ahmad with me,” safety Antrel Rolle said. ”I love that guy, I love his passion, I love the attitude he brings to a game. He’s a very emotional guy. Nothing he does is meant to be disturbing to anyone else. It may come across like that, it may not. But we all know Ahmad means the world (to us).
”We ride or die with Ahmad.”
Guard Kevin Boothe said football is an emotional game and players yell at times, noting Bradshaw’s blowup drew more attention because he is a high-profile player on a champion team.
”He’s the starting running back for the New York Giants,” Boothe said. ”If he’s yelling, I think that draws more attention than if I’m yelling. I think if we’re both yelling on the sideline, chances are you guys will pick up Ahmad Bradshaw rather than Kevin Boothe.”
Tight end Martellus Bennett said Bradshaw is the same person whether he’s on the field, in the locker room or eating lunch.
”That’s why we love him,” Bennett said. ”I don’t know a good adjective to describe him, but Ahmad is Ahmad. That’s who he is.”