Sunderland manager Steve Bruce fears that Lee Cattermole's career could be blighted if the midfielder fails to improve his poor disciplinary record.
Cattermole was given his marching orders for a second bookable offence after just 22 minutes of Sunderland's 1-1 Premier League draw at Wigan.
It was the second time in four league games that the midfielder has seen red.
"He has to learn, and quick, otherwise his career is going to be blighted by his disciplinary record," said Bruce.
"He's not a dirty player, he's highly competitive, but he's obviously struggling at the moment to come to terms with what's required."
Sunderland salvaged a point from the game courtesy of a well-taken debut goal from new signing Asamoah Gyan and would have had all three had Wigan skipper Antolin Alcaraz not levelled with three minutes to go.
Club captain Cattermole lasted just 43 minutes in Sunderland's opening-day draw with Birmingham at the Stadium of Light before picking up a second yellow card for an ill-advised challenge on Lee Bowyer.
On Saturday the Sunderland midfielder was initially booked for an 18th-minute foul on Mohamed Diame.
Four minutes later Cattermole then brought down Hugo Rodallega as the Colombian led a rapid Wigan counter-attack four minutes, leaving referee Andre Marriner with no choice but to brandish a second yellow card.
"Once he's got the yellow card, he must learn that he can't go to ground," added Bruce, the former Wigan boss.
"I've got no complaints, he's gone to ground, mistimed the tackle, and all of us on the bench were saying 'Lee, please stay on your feet.'
"I gave him the captain's job to try and give him a bit of responsibility. He's everything I like in a player: he comes in, he trains hard every day, he loves the game and he's got a terrific attitude.
"In my day, it wouldn't have been a problem. But today was a prime example that once you've got the yellow card - and it was the same a month ago - you cannot afford to take a risk. Unfortunately, he has."
Wigan were guilty of missing a host of second-half chances after Cattermole's dismissal, but deserved their point on the balance of play.
"I was extremely proud at the manner we approached the game and a draw is the least reward we deserved," said Wigan boss Roberto Martinez.
"I think we showed signs of a team that is slowly gelling together with many new faces.
"I am delighted with the reaction we had in the second half and the way we worked as a team."
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