NFL Players So Dirty You’ll Never Forget Their Names

football | 6/8/18

The NFL is a brutal league. The job of a defender is to not only tackle the ball carrier but pummel him into the ground with brute force. It’s easy to shrug this violence off as part of the game. However, it’s not so easy when the hit happens away from the play or is clearly intended to injure the other player. Players want to make plays, but they never want to end another’s career. Well, most never want to end another player’s career. Unfortunately, there are a sad few that seem to make this ugly act their mission. These are those players, and boy they are dirty!

Ndamukong Suh Steps All Over The Competition

Chris Trotman/Getty Images
Chris Trotman/Getty Images

Considered by many to be a gentle giant off the field, Ndamukong Suh is the exact opposite on the field. Fined multiple times for stepping on players after tackling them, Suh has paid his fair share in fines to the League. Drafted by the Detroit Lions in 2010, Suh cost himself over $400,000 in penalties in just the first four years of his career. Now in 2018, who knows what the number is! Suh is a one-man wrecking crew crashing through the offensive line with his sights set squarely on the quarterback. He is the true definition of the player you love to play with and hate to play against.

Brandon Merriweather Doesn’t Know When Enough Is Enough

Richard Schultz/Getty Images
Richard Schultz/Getty Images

Brandon Merriweather is not your average dirty player. While most angry athletes target their opponents with over-the-top aggression, they also don’t hurt themselves in the process. Not so for Mr. Merriweather! On multiple occasions, his tackles have led to massive helmet-to-helmet collisions with scary effects for both players. This most notably happened against the Packers when a particular skull-crushing hit left him and his victim concussed. For his unabashed neglect for player safety, Merriweather was fined $42,000. Of course, that number is minuscule compared to the total he has been fined for hits and suspensions. It’s a shame too — Merriweather was incredibly talented, being named to the Pro-Bowl twice. Maybe if he was smarter he would not have been forced out of the league by age 31 with plenty of gas left in his tank.

Vontaze Burfict Is Straight From Your Nightmares

Joe Robbins/Getty Images
Joe Robbins/Getty Images

Just 27-years-old, Vontaze Burfict has a chance to dethrone as Ndamokung Suh as the dirtiest player still playing. That is if he hasn’t already. A few of Burfict’s lowlights include a shockingly violent late hit to the head of Antonio Brown with the clock ticking down against the Steelers in the playoffs. Burfict had no logical reasoning for this devastating hit that cost the Bengals the game, and their first playoff win since 1991. If Burfict had used his brain the right way, there would have been no penalty, the pass would have been incomplete, and Pittsburgh would never have wound up in game-winning field goal range. Oops…

Dunta Robinson Just Can’t Stop

Kevin C. Cox/Getty Images
Kevin C. Cox/Getty Images

Perhaps more aggressive than dirty, Dunta Robinson Robinson belongs on this list for both the amount he has paid in fines and the particular team he seems to hate the most. Signed by the Falcons in 2010 after a successful but quiet start to his career in Houston, Robinson finally made his name known in red and black. Specifically to the Philadelphia Eagles. For unknown reasons. Although we’re sure he has them. After joining Atlanta, Robinson wouldn’t stop terrorizing the Eagles, one time getting hit with a $50,000 fine for a helmet-to-helmet hit on DeSean Jackson. Happy to keep paying the NFL, he got fined another $40,000 that same season for a defenseless hit on Jeremy Maclin, also an eagle at the time. In total, Dunta Robinson has accrued quite the debt to the league, with just about half of it coming against the Philadelphia Eagles. For some reason that we’re sure he has.

Cortland Finnegan Just Wants A Hug

Matt Pearce/Icon SMI/Icon Sport Media via Getty Images
Matt Pearce/Icon SMI/Icon Sport Media via Getty Images

Okay, maybe Cortland Finnegan doesn’t want a hug, but we’re pretty sure he needs one. During his career, players hated Finnegan. He was dirty in every way possible, believing the best way to beat his opponents was to get in their heads. Sometimes literally. More than once the league fined Finnegan for using players helmets against them. Against the Giants in 2010, Finnegan grabbed receiver Steve Smith (not the one you’re thinking of) by the facemask and threw him to the ground. He also loved running his mouth, one-time talking so much trash to Texans’ great Andre Johnson that the pair got into a brutal fistfight. Johnson, noted for being quiet an professional, completely lost his cool after dealing with Finnegan’s refusal to shut up.

This Is The Steve Smith You’re Thinking Of!

Grant Halverson/Getty Images
Grant Halverson/Getty Images

Steve Smith Sr. is going to be a Hall of Famer someday. He is one of the greatest wide receivers to ever play. He is also one of the dirtiest. Undersized for the NFL, Steve Smith Sr. had a fire in his belly that not only made him great, but also made him dangerous to opposing defenders. His fire never died, either. Late in his career, after leaving the Panthers and signing with the Baltimore Ravens, he got into a skirmish with Washington Redskins defensive back Chris Culliver that got both players ejected. With 14,000 career receiving yards to his name and a sweet gig at the NFL Network, we’re pretty sure Steve Smith Sr. isn’t look back at his career with shame.

John Lynch Gets Taken To The Bank For One Hit

Rick Stewart/Getty Images
Rick Stewart/Getty Images

Known by modern NFL fans as the general manager of the San Francisco 49ers, John Lynch’s borderline Hall of Fame career was defined by big hits and even bigger fines. Originally drafted by the Tampa Bay Buccaneers in 2003, Lynch played 15 seasons in the NFL and won a Super Bowl in 2002. He was a perfect fit for John Gruden’s aggressive and hard-hitting defensive scheme. The fit may have been too good if you asked Lynch’s wallet, though. One hit, in particular, took Lynch to the cleaners. In 2005 as a Bronco, Lynch hit Colts’ tight end Dallas Clark so violently the league fined him $75,000. The amount was more than three times any of his previous fines. The message was too little too later, however, as Lynch retired in 2007 and is both remembered and hated by fans for leaving all his aggression on the field.

Richie Incognito Is Not A Nice Person

Nick Cammett/Diamond Images/Getty Images
Nick Cammett/Diamond Images/Getty Images

Somehow still in the league, Richie Incognito has had his fair share of NFL player conduct violations. Most horrendously, Incognito was accused of bullying teammate Jonathan Martin in Miami, using racial slurs and insulting the offensive lineman’s family. The mental distress caused Martin to leave the league to recover his competitive edge. Incognito was blackballed by the league and suspended indefinitely. Thought to be too dirty for the league, Incognito spend the next year rehabbing his public image. The move worked and he was reinstated by the NFL and quickly signed by the Buffalo Bills in 2015. Last season Incognito made the pro-bowl, proving talent outweighs decency in the league. Jonathan Martin attempted a comeback, briefly joining the 49ers, but did not win the long battle that his harasser ultimately did.

Bryan Cox Is The King Of Fines

JEFF HAYNES/AFP/Getty Images
JEFF HAYNES/AFP/Getty Images

Former linebacker Bryan Cox just didn’t know who to take his anger out on. If his multiple penalties leading to an NFL record $87,000 fine are any indication it was the refs. During a game in 1996, Cox became so inflamed by the refs that he cursed up a storm and made obscene gestures. We’ll let you guess just what those gestures were. So what exactly happened? After a play, Cox threw his helmet to the ground and was flagged for unsportsmanlike conduct. Most players understand taking their helmet off on the field of play and throwing it to the ground is illegal. Bryan Cox must have thought he was above the law of the NFL land. The league sure didn’t! His record fine lasted for 17 years until Ndamukong Suh came along.

Ray Lewis Eats Opponents For Dinner

Rob Tringali/Sportschrome/Getty Images
Rob Tringali/Sportschrome/Getty Images

Considered maybe the greatest linebacker to ever play the game, Ray Lewis is also undeniably one of the dirtiest. Quarterbacks, running backs, and wide receivers hated going up against Lewis, who ferociously led the Ravens to a two Super Bowl victories over his 15-year career. During that span, Lewis left a number of victims concussed, most disturbingly Chad Ochocinco after a hit in 2009 that sent his helmet flying. Later in that same game, Lewis kicked a different player. The NFL fined him $25,000, which doesn’t seem close to enough for his dangerous antics. It probably doesn’t help that after the game Ochocinco asked the league not to fine Lewis, claiming it was a clean hit and not the linebackers fault. Watch the video for yourself and see if you agree!

Bill Romanowski Hates Happiness

Rodolfo Ganzales/Allsport/Getty Images
Rodolfo Ganzales/Allsport/Getty Images

No one who watches the NFL or ever played in the NFL misses Bill Romanowski. Then again, no sport was more fitting for the hot-headed linebacker to make a career playing. Romanowski’s career is one marred by fights with teammates, countless fines for on-field violence, and racist allegations. He was the perfect villain. Okay, so what incident do we even discuss there are so many? How about his $42,000 fine for punching Kansas City Chiefs’ tight end Tony Gonzalez. There is also the time he called Cam Newton “boy” in reference to losing Super Bowl 50. “Boy” is very much a derogatory term for African Americans. Yeah, no one misses Bill Romanowski.

Anthony Davis Whips Up Devastation

Michael Zagaris/San Francisco 49ers/Getty Images
Michael Zagaris/San Francisco 49ers/Getty Images

Anthony Davis was selected by the San Francisco 49ers in the first round of the 2010 NFL Draft. During his brief career in the league, he caused havoc against opposing defensive lineman. Being large and slow, Davis couldn’t always get in front of defenders the way he needed to, so he mastered an illegal move best described as a leg whip. The tripping move led Davis to pay a hefty amount in fines to the League offices. Fines aren’t the reason he ended up leaving the league before turning 30 however. After years of instability, Davis got tired of the 49ers coaches and management, deciding to retire instead of play another down with the team. Considering his history, his early retirement was probably best for everyone.

Albert Haynesworth never did what was best for everyone, unless that what intentionally hurting them is…

Albert Haynesworth Stomps His Way Into Infamy

Marc Serota/Getty Images
Marc Serota/Getty Images

Albert Haynesworth is a literal giant of a man, standing at a massive 6’6″ tall and weighing a hefty 350 pounds. During the peak of his career, he used every bit of his size to his advantage. A number of times, he also used it to the detriment of his wallet, and more importantly, to other player’s health. His worst moment came when he intentionally stomped Cowboys’ center Andre Gurode after a play was over. There was no reason, Haynesworth just felt like doing it. Haynesworth inflicted a long of pain he just felt like in fact. During the entirety of his career, Haynesworth was fined for multiple personal fouls, on-field fights, and verbal altercations with referees. He was a good player but is sadly more remembered now for his attitude and antics than his on-field play.

Josh Norman Is A Fighter, Not A Lover

Jim McIsaac/Getty Images
Jim McIsaac/Getty Images

Josh Norman is the modern day Cortland Finnegan, with just as big a mouth and an even bigger ability to cause fights. The trick with Norman is that he loves to talk, and if he talks enough to get a player to fight him, he loves to fight even more. His favorite fight, we’re guessing, has to be with Giants’ receiver Odell Beckham Jr. During Norman’s last season as a New York Giant, he spent a game covering Beckham, making sure the elite receiver heard everything he had to say. Eventually, the two got into a good old-fashioned WWE style fight on the field after a play. Shockingly Norman was not ejected. Signed by Washington a year later, he is reportedly already on the outs with them two years later. It’s unclear what teams might want to go after the big mouthed cover corner now, but someone probably will.

The same can be said for Aqib Talib, despite his erroneous number of suspensions.

Aqib Talib Has Multiple Suspensions On His Resume

Tom Szczerbowski/Getty Images
Tom Szczerbowski/Getty Images

Aqib Talib might be known best by NFL fans as a member of the Broncos “No-Fly Zone” that helped Peyton Manning win a Super Bowl two seasons ago, but amongst NFL circles he is seen as a league villain. The kind of player teams would rather play with than against, Talib has been suspended three times since 2010 for various reasons. His most recent suspension came in 2015 when he shoved his fingers into the facemask of then-Colts’ tight end Dwayne Allen. Still, Talib remains a viable player in the league, getting to flaunt his Super Bowl ring to his victims as the Broncos try to trade him and unload his salary.

James Harrison Loves Being The Bad Guy

Photo by George Gojkovich/Getty Images
Photo by George Gojkovich/Getty Images

James Harrison once posed for the cover of Men’s Health Magazine holding two guns crossed against his chest. He is okay being the bad guy. In fact, he probably loves the fact that in 2010 he was fined over $100,000 dollars for illegal hits. Here is the list: he knocked out Browns’ receivers Josh Cribbs and Mohammed Massaquoi, flipped Titans’ QB, Vince Young, speared Drew Brees late in the back, and speared Ryan Fitzpatrick during a pass attempt. Despite the fines, Harrison was never suspended and even helped lead the Steelers to the Super Bowl. Pittsburgh lost the big game to Packers, luckily ending the story of 2010 for Harrison without a reward.

Richard Sherman has gotten lots ofrewards if you consider penalty flags rewarding!

Richard Sherman Gets Handsy

Al Pereira/Getty Images
Al Pereira/Getty Images

It wouldn’t be fair to put every member of the Seattle Seahawks secondary on this list, so instead, we present you the worst offender; Richard Sherman. It’s no secret that Pete Carroll coaches his secondary to hold and interfere with wide receivers The fact of the matter is there is no way the refs will call every single penalty. Sherman may be an all-pro (and deservedly so), but he also commits three times more penalties than he ever gets called for. Those numbers are probably correct if you researched them, and also pretty impressive for someone who has led the league in pass interference penalties and defensive holding multiple times in his career!

Tom Brady Loves To Deflate Things

Brett Carlsen/Getty Images
Brett Carlsen/Getty Images

It shouldn’t surprise anyone that Tom Brady makes this list. To be clear, and it’s sad we have to be clear, Tom Brady is probably the greatest quarterback to ever play the game. He is also one of the dirtiest and a known cheater. You think players and fans have already forgotten “Deflategate?” When Brady was caught lowering the pressure of his footballs to make them easier to throw and catch? That’s a pretty dirty move in our book. After all, not all dirt happens with fists between opposing players. Sometimes cheating for years without getting caught is just as bad. Still, with five Super Bowl rings to his name, we doubt Tom Brady is worried about his reputation.

Terrell Suggs Just Balls So Hard

Stacy Revere/Getty Images
Stacy Revere/Getty Images

During the pre-game introduction, Terrell Suggs claims to have gone to “Ball So Hard University” for his college. Of course, that’s a fake university, but fans have become enamored with the name and ignored how dirty of a player Suggs actually is. In fact, of Suggs signature moves is to tackle running backs low, usually around the knees.One of the few times he was called for the penalty was for a late hit on LeGarrette Blount. A hit that was clearly illegal and meant to cause harm, and somehow Suggs was fined less than $10,000. If he didn’t fly so under the radar with his dirty play he would probably be higher on this list. Unfortunately, not everyone sees his dirty playing style the same we do.

T.J. Ward Hunts For Knees And Heads

Stan Grossfeld/The Boston Globe via Getty Images
Stan Grossfeld/The Boston Globe via Getty Images

Another member of the Denver Broncos vaunted, “No-Fly Zone,” T.J. Ward has made his career going low. Patriot fans will never forgive him for targeting Rob Gronkowski’s knee after coming back from a major ACL injury (he was a Brown at the time). Oh yeah, he also body slammed Julian Edelman in the AFC Championship game against the Patriots in 2015. Ward has made his career hunting low and high, injuring any player brave enough to get near him. Search for T.J. Ward and “fines” online and you will see exactly why he makes this list. It’s not pretty, and neither was the time he ripped Michael Crabtree’s gold chain necklace from his neck. In other news, Ward also won a Super Bowl with the Broncos, so here’s a closing question to ponder; Maybe being bad in the NFL is actually a good thing?

Jones Slapped Ears

deacon jones
Sport/Getty Images
Sport/Getty Images

Deacon Jones was as fierce as they come. His specialty was getting to the quarterback and bringing him down. Jones racked up more than 130 sacks before it became an official statistic. He had many moves that helped him do this, but one, in particular, was nasty.

Jones would literally punch someone in the earhole of the helmet, and while they were distraught, he would blow by them and head towards the quarterback. Talk about savagery.

Schlereth Enjoyed The Cheap Shots

mark schlereth
Brian Bahr /Allsport
Brian Bahr /Allsport

You know him now as an NFL analyst, but Mark Schlereth used to live a savage life as an offensive lineman for the Denver Broncos. It wasn’t just him either, the whole line liked to take part in the games, but Schlereth seemed a little more excited than the others.

Schlereth said the difference between them and other teams is, “they were throwing 15-16 cut blocks a game. We were throwing 40.” He tried the everybody is doing it, why can’t we speech.

Jason Babin Stayed With Fines

jason babin
Rich Schultz /Getty Images
Rich Schultz /Getty Images

Coach Chuck Cecil has a reputation of being an interesting coach, so it makes sense that Jason Babin ended up on this list. Many veteran quarterbacks know about Babin and his tricky ways.

Philip Rivers is on record saying that Babin has almost taken out his knees on several occasions. Over the years, Babin has gotten fined quite a bit of money for his hits that are “unsafe.” We had to include him here wouldn’t you agree?

Competitive Or Dirty?

Hines Ward
Harry How/Getty Images
Harry How/Getty Images

Hines Ward was an amazing receiver for the Steelers. His career statistics and achievements speak for themselves, but some think he might have been a little mischievous on his way to the top.

The NFL didn’t quite clarify whether or not he was dirty or clean but they made a rule to curb his style of blocking. His above the shoulder on unsuspecting and unaware players had the possibility of injuring someone, so something had to be done.

Head Hunter Harrison

rodney harrison
Ezra Shaw/Getty Images
Ezra Shaw/Getty Images

Rodney Harrison is a two-time Super Bowl champ, two-time Pro Bowler and used to play for the Chargers and Patriots. Many knew him as one of the most intimidating players the league has seen, but that’s because he was drilling people.

Harrison was a head hunter and hit many different players with cheap shots. You can be intimidating all you want, but if you’re doing it in a dirty way, it takes away from your legend. He brought in $200,000 worth of fines during his career.

Helmet Hitter Cecil

chuck cecil
Mitchell Layton/Getty Images
Mitchell Layton/Getty Images

Even though his stint in the NFL didn’t last too long (seven years), he left an impact with the way he played. Leaving an impact usually comes with a positive connotation. Chuck Cecil had a negative impact.

He had a reputation for being the biggest hitter, but also for taking cheap shots. He would lead with his helmet and that practice would cause a lot of injuries. Cecil was no stranger to fines either for playing like that.

Fit In Where He Could

steve Winsniewski
Stephen Dunn
Stephen Dunn

Some players are smart enough to know when they can do things without getting caught. Its like that when you’re growing up too, you know when you can get away with things without your parents getting mad at you.

Steve Wisniewski was one of those players. “The Wiz” was never afraid to mix things up on the field. He would always find a way to poke at the defensive lineman without the refs catching it.

The Reckless Tatum

GettyImages-81540092
James Flores/Getty Images
James Flores/Getty Images

Building careers from being fearless and reckless, Jack Tatum wasn’t the biggest guy on the field so he had to to do what made sense for him. He earned the nickname “The Assassin” and loved lowering the hit on opposing players.

However, he always would lead with his helmet and that wasn’t a good formula for hitting people. One time, he hit WR Darryl Stingley like that and it led to Stingley becoming paralyzed afterward.

Cheapshot Artist

GettyImages-866414822
Bob Riha, Jr./Getty Images
Bob Riha, Jr./Getty Images

Some athletes do whatever to win. That’s just the nature of their DNA. Losing means too much, so finding out whatever ways they can to secure a win is a must for someone like Lyle Alzado.

He was a cheap shot artist that some say would go into the stands and punch your mother if he had to. He was wild on the field but still had some charm about him. You couldn’t hate him that much.

Biggest Hitter, Dirty Targeting

andre waters
George Gojkovich/Getty Images
George Gojkovich/Getty Images

Many can still have the reputation of being a big hitter without being a dirty player. Unfortunately for Andre Waters, that wasn’t the case for him. One big hitter, but also as dirty as they come.

Waters would target the knees of those he was coming to strike with full force. He also did it with the intent to injure the opposing quarterback. He is the reason why the NFL adopted the rule that quarterbacks couldn’t get hit below the waist.

Hit Them Where It Hurts

GettyImages-94810703
Stephen Dunn/Getty Images
Stephen Dunn/Getty Images

Shawne Merriman was an elite force on the defensive side of the ball. It would have been smart of you to not run in his direction unless you wanted to get laid out on the gridiron. He was coming with full force.

Sometimes, that force would be mixed with cheap shots or dirty tactics. Merriman did have a way of getting under the skin of his opponents. He was another player to do whatever he could and tried to get away with it all.

Voted Dirty By His Peers

GettyImages-153130707
Rob Carr/Getty Images
Rob Carr/Getty Images

Whenever your peers take a poll for who the dirtiest player is, and you win, you have to make this list. This poll happened in 2009 and Brian Dawkins won dirtiest player in the NFL in a piece that would appear in Sports Illustrated.

Dawkins had been known for leading with his helmet with all intent to injure folks. He also would make hits on unprotected players after the whistle blew. No wonder he won the poll.

One Hit Changed Everything

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Jeff Zelevansky/Getty Images
Jeff Zelevansky/Getty Images

Sometimes, you can have a clean slate throughout your NFL career without receiving that dirty player tag. Then, one game, one play, one tackle can change all of that. Just ask Bart Scott after his hit on Reggie Bush happened.

After Scott went out of his way to massacre Bush’s ankle that knocked him out of the game, he would never be looked at the same way again. After that, he earned the tag of a dirty player.

Clemons The Quarterback Sacker

Chris Clemons
TIMOTHY A. CLARY/AFP/Getty Images
TIMOTHY A. CLARY/AFP/Getty Images

Chris Clemons had some serious speed to him as a pass rusher. He would always find a way to get to the quarterback, but that also served as a downfall to his reputation. Clemons possessed such a zeal for sacks, he became known as a cheap shot artist.

He could pass for a passionate playmaker on some days, but on other days, he was a Mr. Cheap Shot. He received multiple fines for taking on defenseless quarterbacks.

The Biter Dobler

Conrad Dobler
Contributor/Getty Images
Contributor/Getty Images

Over the course of a decade-long career, Conrad Dobler earned himself the reputation of being one of the dirtiest players to have ever play in the NFL. Many debate the true nature of his style of play, but it has come to him even biting people.

If he wasn’t biting, then he was trying to purposely inflict pain on his opponents. Dobler, of course, denies these claims against him. He doesn’t deny that he would grab and kick.

Allen Targets The Knees

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Hannah Foslien/Getty Images
Hannah Foslien/Getty Images

Some might not like seeing Jared Allen on this list. That’s fine, but those people aren’t the quarterbacks that he went after. What he did to someone like Matt Schaub is enough to land you here.

Allen has more than once targeted quarterbacks at their knees. Schuab thinks Allen took him out on purpose back in 2008. The hit to his knees forced him to miss the next few games. How many others were hit by Allen?

The Killer Williams

GettyImages-82793708
Al Messerschmidt/Getty Images
Al Messerschmidt/Getty Images

There is one play in football that is a little more dangerous than others. Thank goodness the players wear helmets and pads because some of these hits and other variations of tackling would be quite deadly.

One of those tackles is called the horse-collar. That’s when you illegally grab the back of the neck of someone to bring them down. Roy Williams was an expert at this dangerous tackle that could lead to severe injuries or even death.

Trash-Talking Dockett

Darnell Dockett
Christian Petersen/Getty Images
Christian Petersen/Getty Images

Darnell Dockett can be identified as one of the dirtiest to make this list. He is one of the game’s most epic trash talkers as well, so he adds insult to injury in the worst way. However, he is a great pass rusher.

Dockett’s been fined on multiple times. Not too long ago, he pushed his elbow into the throat of Matt Hasselbeck after a sack kept it there far longer than it needed to be.

Dirty Or Just Massive?

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Focus on Sport/Getty Images
Focus on Sport/Getty Images

For Bruce Smith, he must have had his fair shares of opponents that turned coward and ran the opposite direction. If Smith was on the right side, then you can bet some would be sure to stay left. That’s the thing, was he dirty or just really skilled?

He had a rare combination of size and strength for a linebacker. His footwork was also finely tuned and probably the best in history. He gave it his all ever play, so many probably confused that with inappropriate aggression.

Trouble On And Off The Field

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Kevin C. Cox/Getty Images
Kevin C. Cox/Getty Images

Greg Hardy was a headcase to say the least. Not only was he issues on the field, but he stirred up trouble away from the game as well. A domestic violence case lead to his 10-game suspension back in 2015.

On the field, he was like many others on this list that would do cheap shots as often as they could without getting caught. He was a hard hitter too, so that just made things worse.