The NFL has long had a troubled history of its players doing terrible things, which isn't all that surprising when you consider it employs more than 1,500 players who often take vicious hits to the head on a weekly basis.
But we can't just blame concussions or Roger Goodell as the reason for violent acts committed by players - sometimes people are just terrible. Now, it's a different story when Goodell knowingly attempts to hide and cover up evidence (which has happened) or create his own witch hunt to suspend a player for absurd reasons. Trust us, the players on this list did things much more than deflate a few footballs or film another team practicing.
From domestic violence to animal cruelty and first-degree murder, the players that follow represent the worst of the NFL. More than 20 players have been arrested so far in 2016, but don't expect to find any of those players here; if we wanted to include drug charges and traffic violations we'd have to expand the list into the 1000s.
15 Ray Rice
One mistake doesn't make a person, but it doesn't help when that mistake is on video for everyone to see. It also doesn't help when that mistake is dragged through the media after an alleged cover-up by Goodell and the NFL. Prior to the 2014 season, Rice was suspended for two games after knowledge of his arrest in a domestic violence incident with his fiance and future wife Janay Palmer became public. The Baltimore Ravens running back had the support of his team and was given a mere slap on the wrist by the league, which again wasn't surprising since domestic violence has become so prevalent in the NFL that it's about two years from being included as a stat in fantasy football leagues.
But then the video was leaked. Weeks after Goodell announced the creation of a new domestic violence policy which included a lifetime ban for second offenses, TMZ released the now infamous video of Rice cold clocking Palmer and proceeding to drag her unconscious body out of the elevator. It was so disturbing that Rice was released by the Ravens on the same day and hasn't returned to football since. The team has stated that his version of the events didn't match up clearly with what the video showed. He has apologized numerous times and has pledged to donate salary to domestic violence charities if an NFL team signs him, but we won't be able to forget the elevator incident anytime soon.
14 Josh Brown
Josh Brown, current kicker for the New York Giants, was suspended one game for a domestic violence incident this year. His wife at the time had made a call to 911 and Brown was arrested. While the charges were later dropped, he allegedly abused her on more than 20 occasions and Brown himself is on record admitting he had done so in the past. In fact, the kicker had a journal which had been made public this past week and it contains incriminating words, while painting an image of Brown as a deeply disturbed individual. In addition to admitting to treating his wife as a "slave," Brown said he has "objectified women and never really worried about the pain and hurt I caused them."
The Giants claim they were unaware of the journal entries when they handed him a two-year extension in the off-season and his one-game suspension appears even more unjust now. Similar to the Ray Rice situation, the Giants have now cut ties with Brown and he has been placed on the Commissioner's exempt list.
13 Jovan Belcher
The life of Jovan Belcher is a tragic story, one which ended in the former Kansas City Chiefs linebacker shooting himself in the head at the Arrowhead Stadium in front of his own bosses. Earlier that morning, Belcher shot and killed his girlfriend and the mother of his daughter, Kasandra Perkins.
Since the murder-suicide, the obvious has been revealed: Belcher's brain showed signs of CTE. But signs of trouble showed before his tragic ending. Despite being a member of the "Male Athletes Against Violence" at the University of Maine, with the Chiefs Belcher owned eight guns and shared a passion for firearms along with Perkins. The two also fought continually over money and other relationship issues. When he arrived at Arrowhead on the morning of his death, he thanked management for trying to help him, but stated it wasn't enough. Belcher might not have been a terrible human being his whole life - none of the players here were - but on that day he did a terrible thing.
12 Greg Hardy
Greg Hardy is far from the first football player to hit a woman, but his unapologetic and nonchalant stance about an alleged incident proves he's an awful human being. In the same interview with ESPN's Adam Schefter, Hardy both claimed he has never put his hand on a woman, while at the same time admitting that he "didn't say he didn't do anything wrong ... and that the situation was handled."
On the field, Hardy has long been considered a troubled player and showed signs of his temper in 2015 when he got into an argument with an assistant coach and slapped a clipboard from his hands on the sidelines. That temper was allegedly taken out on his now ex-girlfriend in 2014. Graphic photos detail the bruises on her body, which suggest Hardy, a powerful defensive end, struck her numerous times with great force. The case was thrown out of court as Hardy reportedly reached a civil suit agreement with the woman. He's currently a free-agent, which says a lot about how big of a as***** he is, because domestic assault alone hasn't stopped NFL teams from employing star players in the past.
11 Terrell Suggs
Baltimore Ravens linebacker Terrell Suggs was arrested in March of this year for driving with a suspended license and leaving the scene of an accident after his BMW jumped a curb and drove into a wall. He told police he had fallen asleep at the wheel and wasn't intoxicated, and his attorney has since come out and stated he expects no criminal convictions, but what we hate most about the incident is that Suggs dropped the "I'm an athlete" defense: "I didn’t involve you all because if you … did your research, I am an athlete. We do kind of got a bad rep right now. Driving without a license still ain’t good. They’ll see it as a DUI or whatever," he told police. Yet, this isn't even close to the main reason we see Suggs as a terrible person.
Suggs, like former teammate Ray Rice, is an alleged domestic abuser. In the past seven years the mother of his children has filed for two protective orders against Suggs, both of which detail some disturbing allegations. In the first incident, Suggs is accused of knocking the woman to the ground and then sitting on her and grabbing her neck while threatening to drown her with a bottle of bleach. He's also accused of giving her a broken nose and black eyes. Both protective orders were eventually rescinded after the couple tried to reconcile their relationship.
10 Michael Vick
Like many of the currently free men on this list, Michael Vick has done a lot to rehabilitate his image, including the work he has done with the Humane Society to end dog fighting. But before any of that, Vick had brought dog fighting into the main stream with the revelation of his dog fighting ring and his eventual federal conviction. We believe the man has paid his debt to society since then, but the sheer horror of what he did is long-lasting.
A co-founder of a pitbull advocate group which rehabbed many of the 49 dogs found alive on Vick's property in 2007 detailed some of the horror scenes she still struggles with to this day in a 2015 story. Dogs were killed in a nearby swimming pool and a lot of times jumper cables were clipped onto the ears of dogs, essentially shocking them for poor performance, and they were then tossed into the pool to die. Witnesses testified to federal investigators that, on occasion, Vick would even throw family pets into the fighting pit. The mobile quarterback was able to continue his career after serving 18 months, but is currently a free agent.
9 Richie Incognito
Look, you don't have to commit a felony to be a terrible person. There's a litany of things a person can do that are awful, but not worthy of jail time and Richie Incognito has done most of them. Along with a couple other Miami Dolphins teammates, Incognito was responsible for former second round pick Jonathan Martin retiring from the game.
Team culture is certainly different than office culture, but Incognito overstepped the boundaries on multiple occasions, often joking, along with other teammates, that he wanted to sexually assault Martin's sister, while routinely making racially-charged jokes. Incognito was suspended for the final eight games of the season as the NFL investigated the situation. Some might claim that what Martin went through is part of the locker room culture (Donald Trump, for one), but other NFL players came out in Martin's defense at the time, stating that type of behavior isn't common for other teams.
8 Darrell Russell
A former second overall pick in the NFL Draft, Darrell Russell was building a promising career with the Oakland Raiders prior to a 2002 sexual assault charge. The hulking defensive tackle racked up 28.5 sacks in five seasons with the Raiders, but served more than a year worth of suspensions for various offenses.
But the worst came in 2002, when Russell and two friends were put on trial for the sexual assault of a 28 year old woman. Prosecutors alleged that Russell drugged the victim and she had no recollection of the night, but Russell and friends filmed the act, which was shown in court. Despite the video evidence which showed the often unresponsive and limp victim, Russell was eventually exonerated, though it's clear he was no saint. He died three years later in a car crash.
7 Jim Dunaway
Defensive tackle Jim Dunaway had a great ten-year career which ended in 1972 as a member of the historic undefeated Miami Dolphins. He was a former third overall pick in the 1963 NFL Draft by the Buffalo Bills and to this day is considered one of the franchise's top defensive lineman. For more than 25 years after he retired, Dunaway was a quiet, respected NFL alumni, who ran a dairy farm in Florida, but that changed in 1998, when the body of his ex-wife was discovered in a swimming pool located on her property.
An autopsy of her body discovered she had suffered an open fracture to her skull and was unconscious before being put in the water. At the time of her death, Dunaway was appealing the terms of the couple's divorce, which was to give her property and half of his NFL pension. Though he was arrested, Dunaway was never convicted. He didn't get off scot-free, however, as his children later filed for wrongful death charges against him and received more than $500,000. We can only assume they don't speak to their 75 year old father.
6 Adrian Peterson
We totally get that there are different methods of parenting, but the model has definitely changed in recent history. When he came under fire for beating his child with a tree branch, Adrian Peterson said that was how he was raised and if that's the case then his parents are just as awful as he is. A police report detailed cuts and scars on Peterson's four-year-old son, along with bruises on his lower back. Peterson didn't just hit his child a few times to teach a lesson either - he also put leaves in the boy's mouth and pulled his pants down as he struck him. To be fair, AP had some serious regret in a text to the child's mother: "Got him in the nuts once I noticed. But I felt so bad, n I'm all tearing that butt up when needed! I start putting them in timeout. N save the whooping for needed memories!"
Peterson was suspended for an entire season without pay by Roger Goodell, which we agree was a bit excessive compared to the league's handling of domestic abuse cases of a more violent nature. But it was the running back's overall lack of remorse that rubbed the league the wrong way. Instead of issuing a sincere apology and moving on, Peterson defended his actions in released text messages.
5 Ray Lewis
Ray Lewis is known for his phenomenal play at the linebacker position and his inspiring leadership skills, but many people forget he and two friends were the prime suspects in the fatal stabbing of two men near an Atlanta night club in 2000. In fact, Lewis was arrested the following day on first degree murder charges, but was later released on $1 million dollar bail.
There are varying accounts of what happened that night, but what's known is there was an altercation between two groups of people and Lewis was involved. His leadership skills were nowhere to be found, however, as he eventually turned witness against two of his friends (who were eventually acquitted anyway) in exchange for an obstruction of justice plea. He also reached a settlement with the victims' families years later, which seems an odd thing to do if you're completely innocent.
Let's assume for a minute Lewis didn't actually commit murder, he at the very least lied to police about what happened that night and months prior was served a criminal summons for punching a woman in a Baltimore bar and fleeing the scene.
4 Ben Roethlisberger
Ben Roethlisberger has a knack for escaping the pocket and avoiding a sack, but he's even better at avoiding justice. We're not going to pretend that sometimes stories morph into lies and varied details when there's drinking involved, but when you're not once, but twice, accused of sexual assault, chances are there's something to it.
In 2012, Big Ben settled a civil lawsuit with a woman who alleged the Pittsburgh Steelers quarterback in forcing her to have sex with him while he was visiting Lake Tahoe for a celebrity golf tournament in 2008. After reporting the incident to security at the casino, the woman was allegedly told "most girls would feel lucky to have sex with Roethlisberger." Employees of the casino were also named in the suit for allegedly covering up the incident.
A similar story haunted Roethlisberger in 2010, two years after the first incident, in which he was accused of dragging a college student into a bathroom and forcing sex upon her. Charges were eventually dropped in the case as the victim was incoherently drunk, though some in the bar corroborated her account of the incident.
3 Aaron Hernandez
Though there might be some uncertainty about the guilt of some of the men on this list, there is no doubt former New England Patriots tight end Aaron Hernandez is guilty of murder. Prior to the 2013 NFL season, the Patriots were poised to have the greatest one-two combination at tight end in the history of the game with Rob Gronkowski and Hernandez, who had scored 18 touchdowns in his first three seasons, but his violent past ended up catching up to him.
In June of 2013, detectives entered Hernandez's home with a search warrant responding to the murder of Odin Lloyd, with whom Hernandez was friends with but also a prime suspect. Hernandez was easily convicted by a grand jury months later in an open and shut case thanks to a multitude of evidence which consisted of: DNA, video, cell phone records and witness testimony. He was later convicted in a double murder case a year prior in Boston and remains a suspect for a 2007 double murder in Gainesville, Florida. Naturally, he was cut by the Patriots days after his arrest. Hernandez is currently serving life without the possibility of parole.
2 Darren Sharper
A lot of the players on this list made one or two horrible mistakes in their lifetime, but Darren Sharper presents a different case. A 14-year NFL veteran with 63 career interceptions, Sharper is no more than a monster who epitomizes the worst of human kind.
Sentenced to 20 years in prison earlier this year, Sharper has plead guilty or no contest to sexually assaulting nine women between Aug. 31, 2013 and Jan. 17, 2014, when he was arrested in Los Angeles. Seven other women have also alleged Sharper sexually assaulted them. He would put anti-anxiety and sedative drugs into the drinks of the women he raped, along with the help of Brandon Licciardi, a former sheriff's deputy. One of his victims last statement in court to Sharper before he was convicted was: "Go to hell."
We couldn't agree more.
1 O.J. Simpson
Orenthal James Simpson was charming, talented, and well-liked, but above all a vicious, egotistical murderer. Though he was acquitted in the deaths of Nicole Brown Simpson and Ronald Goldman, it's so widely accepted that he committed the crime that jurors have changed their stance on it and former friends believe he will one day admit to the murders.
A one-time star running back at USC and with the Buffalo Bills in the NFL, Simpson was charged for the 1994 murders in a case that became about much more than the actual crime itself. It became, in essence, a reality series with around-the-clock news coverage and cameras inside the court room, with race at the heart of the proceedings.
After 14 years of freedom, however, Simpson was arrested and sentenced to 33 years in prison for a Nevada robbery in which he attempted to gain back some of his football memorabilia.