By Steve Silverman
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Allen Pinkett used the wrong words to talk about one of the key ingredients to playing winning football.

In an interview on Chicago radio station WSCR-AM Thursday, Pinkett was a guest on the Dan McNeil and Matt Spiegel show.

Pinkett, a former Notre Dame and Houston Oilers (remember them?) star running back, is the longtime color commentator on Notre Dame radio broadcasts.

While being interviewed about the 2012 Fighting Irish team, Pinkett said that there was nothing wrong with having a few players on the team who brought the “criminal” element to the locker room.

MORE: Spiegel: Pinkett refused help

Notre Dame head coach Brian Kelly has suspended four players as a result of off-the-field problems as the Irish prepare to start the season with a game against Navy played in Ireland.

Pinkett said that having guys who break rules can be good for the team.

“I’ve always felt like, to have a successful team, you have to have a few bad citizens on the team,” Pinkett said. “That’s how Ohio State used to win all the time. They would have two or three guys that were criminals and that just adds to the chemistry of the team.

“So I think Notre Dame is growing because maybe they have some guys that are doing something worthy of a suspension, which creates edge on the football team.”

When he was asked if he wanted to reconsider his use of the word “criminal,” Pinkett did not back off and that’s what made his remarks controversial.

Listen to the interview at

But there is something to what Pinkett is saying. If you want to play winning football, you want competitors who play over the line and err on the side of recklessness when they are between the white lines.

You want players who stay within the laws of society when they are off the field, but having a crazed attitude and a desire to inflict punishment often makes for a better player at all levels of the game.

When the Giants overcame nearly two decades of mediocrity in 1981 and became a playoff team under head coach Ray Perkins, it wasn’t because they had a nice guy leading the way.

They had Lawrence Taylor at the outside linebacker spot crushing quarterbacks.

When Charles Haley joined the San Francisco 49ers and later the Dallas Cowboys, he brought a certain crazed bit of mayhem to the locker room that left his teammates scared and his opponents petrified of what he would do next.

So, Pinkett was on to something. If you have a team of nice guys on the field, you are likely going to come out in second place in too many one-on-one confrontations.

However, if you have that mean streak that you can turn on during the 60 minutes of the football game, you are going to be a force to be reckoned with on the field.

All coaches want those kind of players.

They don’t want player who can’t control their behavior once they get off the field.

It’s a difficult combination to find but one that usually makes for winning football.

Pinkett has been forced to apologize, but all fans know that the more nastiness a team can put on the field, the better the chance that team has of becoming dominant in a season.

Your thoughts on the controversy? Be heard in the comments below…

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