In recent years, several National Football League teams have seen its ups and downs, something that isn’t unusual in pro football today. Current league commissioner Roger Goodell has dealt with a couple of Patriots’ scandals in 2007 and 2015, along with the disciplinary issues involving high-profile players such as Ben Roethlisberger, Adam “Pacman” Jones, Ray Rice, Michael Vick, and Adrian Peterson.
At some point, every team has made the decision to release a player from their active roster, whether it’s during training camp or the regular season. The reasons for this move might be related to underperformance, a salary dump, or problems off the field that in some cases result in arrest. We’ve seen Bill Belichick show no hesitation in cutting a player for the reason of it being deemed unacceptable for his football team. No matter how talented a player is, the Patriots will pull the plug if they feel he’s a distraction in any sort of way for the football team.
The batch of players you will see on the list have endured the cruel fate of getting cut from their respective teams in bizarre fashion, so don’t be too surprised if we excluded a player you might recall while reading this piece. So here are 15 former and current NFLers who were cut for ridiculous reasons. We should point out by ‘ridiculous’ we mean either through bizarre circumstances, to the player committing shocking acts that caused their own release. ‘Ridiculous’ in this sense doesn’t necessarily mean unjustified, although some in fact were.
15. ALDON SMITH
The San Francisco 49ers drafted outside linebacker Aldon Smith from the University of Missouri, who showed lots of promise during the 2011 and ’12 seasons by recording over 10 sacks. Unfortunately, Smith’s troubles with the law would plague him during his last two seasons for the Niners. He was arrested in January 2012 with the police suspecting the 49ers LB drove under the influence of alcohol but was charged with reckless driving instead. Smith got arrested again for three felony weapons charges five months later, and then for a DUI in September 2013. Smith needed to enter rehab as a result, then the league suspended him for nine games in 2014 due to his violations of the personal conduct and substance abuse policies.
But Smith found himself charged on suspicion of drunken driving and vandalism in August 2015, which led the Niners to sever ties with the troubled linebacker. Smith would remain in the Bay Area by joining the Oakland Raiders for 2015 but didn’t play a single game last year, as his past troubles followed him around Silicon Valley. Smith’s repeated violations of the league’s substance abuse policy led to an indefinite suspension from the league in 2015, and his tendency to break the law and frequently use alcohol essentially ruined him as a professional football player.
14. Lawrence Okoye
Lawrence Okoye may perhaps have the most bizarre reason for being cut on this list. While other entries here will typically involve ugly off-field incidents, Okoye’s reason for being released from the Arizona Cardinals’ practice squad was over something so minor, it’s crazy that it cost him his job. Okoye got cut after leaving his car parked in the wrong part of the team’s parking lot. Apparently Okoye parked in someone else’s spot and rather than simply issue a warning or have Okoye make it up to the person, he was out of a job. The incident was chronicled on the Amazon series “All or Nothing” in 2015 with coach Bruce Arians trying to defend Okoye, but GM Steve Keim was having none of it and chose to release Okoye.
13. CHAD JOHNSON
Bengals fans might remember former wideout Chad Johnson for his flamboyant personality and memorable touchdown celebrations. Formerly known as “Ochocinco” for a brief time, he spent a majority of his NFL career with the Cincinnati Bengals and one year with the Patriots in 2011. Johnson teamed up with Tom Brady with the hope he’d earn a Super Bowl ring that the Bengals couldn’t get.
Johnson caught 15 passes for 276 yards and scored one touchdown, so head coach Bill Belichick decided not to bring him back for the next season. Johnson received an invite to Miami Dolphins training camp in 2012, then quickly found himself arrested and charged with domestic battery. His then-wife Evelyn Lozada accused him of head-butting her in an argument. The Dolphins cut Johnson just a day after the arrest, and he never played a down in the NFL. He took his talents to the CFL’s Montreal Alouettes from 2014-15 but did not win the Grey Cup or even become a big part of the league up north.
12. DESEAN JACKSON
DeSean Jackson made his name as a Pro Bowl wide receiver for the Philadelphia Eagles from 2008 to ’13. He is also remembered for scoring a game-winning punt return touchdown where the Eagles pulled off another Miracle at the Meadowlands against the Giants in 2010.
During the 2014 offseason, the Eagles made the jaw-dropping decision to release Jackson after six productive seasons. Their reasons for letting go of a receiver in his prime included a report from NJ.com that Jackson associated himself with gang members from L.A., yet he denied those rumours were true. Also, the piece dove into Jackson’s attitude, relationship with then-coach Chip Kelly, and a habit of missing team meetings to meet friends. Jackson’s departure from the City of Brotherly Love had sent shock waves throughout the football world because their decision was unfair to him, given that he was part of their receiving corps.
11. JOE VELLANO
How does a little-known defensive tackle named Joe Vellano make this list? Here are the reasons why. He played for the New England Patriots under Coach Belichick in 2013 and 2014 as part of their practice roster.
The Patriots invited Vellano to training camp last year. But Vellano’s home got destroyed by fire, then he received more bad news. The team released him before their Week 1 opener against Arizona while living with a friend temporarily. The move may have been performance based, but that’s not what the timing made it feel like. Although Vellano went through a rocky road, he got a second chance. The Atlanta Falcons added him to their practice roster last season. And as fate would have it, the Falcons met New England in Super Bowl LI.
10. IK ENEMKPALI
IK Enemkpali is best known for an incident that stunned the football world a couple years ago, rather than his NFL career. In 2015, he broke Geno Smith’s jaw during New York Jets training camp over a $600 debt, which caused him to miss 6-10 weeks of action. Todd Bowles, their head coach at the time, described it as “childish”. Smith explained to CBS Sports in November 2015 that he never owed Enemkpali that much money.
That unfortunate situation would change the course of their careers. Enemkpali lasted two seasons in Buffalo, while Smith lost his job as Jets’ QB to Ryan Fitzpatrick for the 2015 season and played two games in 2016. Smith decided to sign with the New York Giants, which means he’s staying put in The Big Apple as Eli Manning’s backup.
9. STEVE SMITH
A long-time wide receiver with the Carolina Panthers, the recently retired Steve Smith appears on the list for his divorce from the team he helped reach Super Bowl XXXVIII. He spent 13 productive seasons (2001-13) with the Panthers, but the organization decided to release a man who excelled on the gridiron with his ability to catch passes and find the end zone often.
But Carolina’s front office decided to end Smith’s long tenure for these reasons: He was 34 years old at the time of his release, so the team wanted a younger wideout that came cheap and was worried that he’d become a disruptive presence in their locker room, specifically with star QB Cam Newton.
8. MICHAEL VICK
Nearly a decade ago, Falcons fans knew that the imminent release of quarterback Michael Vick became a foregone conclusion once they drafted current QB Matt Ryan first overall in 2008. But Vick’s departure from the city of Atlanta reached disastrous proportions. The team selected the speedy Vick out of Virginia Tech in 2001, then guided the Falcons to a couple of playoff appearances in 2002 and ’04. The Falcons felt Vick was their franchise QB, so they offered him a massive 10-year extension worth $130 million.
But the year 2007 became a major turning point in Vick’s life. Authorities raided Vick’s property in Virginia, as they discovered a dog fighting ring and other injured animals. In August, he admitted to playing a significant part in the inhumane operation despite telling Commissioner Goodell he had nothing to do with it. Since Vick lied to the league and pled guilty to the operation, the NFL suspended him indefinitely. Vick would be sentenced to 23 months in prison, then faced a litany of financial troubles which led to him filing for Chapter 11 bankruptcy. The Falcons let go of Vick in June of ’09, while he was under house arrest. He officially retired earlier this year following brief stints with the Eagles, Jets, and Steelers.
7. AARON HERNANDEZ
The late Aaron Hernandez lands on this list for his tumultuous legal history. He and Rob Gronkowski rose as the Patriots’ explosive tight end tandem from 2010-12 and went on to appear in a Super Bowl. But Hernandez’s life turned upside down in a blink.
He would be arrested for the murder of Odin Lloyd in 2013. The Patriots promptly cut ties with the volatile tight end during the 2013 offseason, then offered their fans to exchange Hernandez jerseys for another Pats’ player. On April 15, 2015, Hernandez was convicted of killing Lloyd and faced a life sentence. Two years later, he was acquitted of a double homicide that occurred a year before Lloyd’s death and passed away by hanging himself inside his prison cell in Massachusetts this past April.
6. LEGARRETTE BLOUNT
When you think of running back LeGarrette Blount, you might be in awe of his 250-pound frame and his ability to stiff-arm tacklers and gain more rushing yards.
Blount began his career with the Buccaneers in 2010, rushing for 1,007 yards as a rookie. He played two more years in Tampa, then joined the Patriots for the ’13 season. The Steelers signed Blount to a two-year contract worth over $3.5 million. The bruising back played 11 games for Pittsburgh, then found himself out of a job after a road game vs. the Titans. A local sports reporter for the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette wrote that Blount was “upset” he did not carry the ball, then left for the team bus before the game had ended. The writer also pointed out that the players wanted the team to cut Blount because of his bad attitude.
Blount returned to the Patriots later that season for five games and won two Super Bowl titles in three seasons. He opted to part ways with New England and sign a one-year deal with the Eagles for 2017.
5. BAM MORRIS
A member of the ’95 Steelers team that played in Super Bowl XXX, running back Bam Morris scored a touchdown that helped them win the AFC title game over the Colts. Pittsburgh went on to lose in The Big Game over a familiar opponent in the Dallas Cowboys.
But on a routine traffic stop, Morris got charged with possession of marijuana and cocaine less than two months later. The Steelers let go of Morris following his guilty plea in June 1996, which paved the way for them to sign future Hall of Fame running back Jerome Bettis.
But Morris’ life took a downward spiral following his Steelers release. He played four more seasons in Baltimore, Chicago, and Kansas City. Then in August 2000, he pleaded guilty to drug trafficking and ultimately earned a 30-month sentence. A year later, he faced another 10 years of hard time for violating his parole which stemmed from his ’96 arrest.
4. PACMAN JONES
A veteran cornerback for over 10 seasons, Pacman Jones takes the fourth spot on the list. Currently a member of the Cincinnati Bengals, he is infamous for not only a long list of legal issues during his Tennessee Titans tenure, but for committing a personal foul by touching a referee in a 2016 Wild Card game that cost Cincinnati another 15 yards in the 4th quarter, which occurred after linebacker Vontaze Burfict’s high hit on Steelers wideout Antonio Brown.
After a string of incidents that led to a season-long suspension for Jones in 2007, the Titans traded Jones to the Dallas Cowboys in 2008. Jones missed seven games that year because of a violation of personal conduct off the field, but his time in Dallas lasted one season. The Cowboys released him in January ’09 amid new allegations from three men from Jones’ hometown of Atlanta intended to shoot at them. Pacman has missed two games in six years with the Bengals, but the Wild Card incident and another violation of the NFL’s personal conduct policy has surely put a damper on his reputation. He would be suspended for one game for breaking one of Goodell’s well-known policies since he became commissioner in 2006.
3. TERRELL OWENS
Former NFLer Terrell Owens made his name as one of the league’s premier, yet controversial wide receivers for the 49ers, Eagles, Cowboys, Bills, and Bengals. Owens came so close to winning the Lombardi Trophy in Super Bowl XXXIX for the Eagles following an ankle surgery, so a championship is what’s missing on his incredible resume.
Despite scoring 153 TD receptions and racking up 15,934 receiving yards, Owens has been cut by two NFC East teams in his career. His departure from the Eagles will go down as a messy divorce from the city of Philadelphia. During the ’04 campaign, Donovan McNabb and Owens were one of the league’s best QB-WR tandems, with the wideout scoring 14 TDs. But in 2005, Owens’ lack of professionalism was on full display.
He demanded a new contract just one season into his seven-year deal worth nearly $50 million, constantly feuded with McNabb, head coach Andy Reid, the Eagles front office, and even slept through one team meeting. This resulted in Reid letting go of Owens after two years in March 2006. He immediately joined the Cowboys and teamed up with Tony Romo, but his stay in Dallas lasted three seasons.
2. JOHNNY MANZIEL
Okay, how could we not include Johnny Football? Before the Cleveland Browns drafted quarterback Johnny Manziel in 2014, he carried such massive hype thanks to an outstanding college career at Texas A&M. He won the Heisman Trophy in 2012, but the past success he had at the NCAA level did not translate in the NFL.
Manziel won two of his eight starts from 2014 to 2015 with the Browns, then made headlines for all the wrong reasons. Before Cleveland’s Week 17 game vs. Pittsburgh, he flew to Vegas and partied using a fake identity and blonde wig, but he was required to check-in for the team’s concussion protocol. Then Manziel faced accusations of assaulting his ex-girlfriend in Texas. The Browns released him last March and is still a free agent to this day.
1. RAY RICE
All right, we knew Ray Rice was a slam-dunk to appear on the list. The former Baltimore Ravens star running back is infamous for a domestic violence incident that occurred in March 2014. Rice punched his then-fiancee at a casino elevator in Atlantic City, New Jersey.
Rice initially faced a two-game suspension for the ’14 season until a new video of what occurred in Atlantic City surfaced on TMZ. As a result, the NFL suspended him indefinitely, and the Ravens wanted nothing to do with him by terminating his contract. The fiasco would end his NFL career, although he didn’t walk away from the league empty-handed. Rice helped the Ravens win a Super Bowl after the 2012 season. As of now, Rice works as a volunteer football coach at New Rochelle High School, his alma mater in New York state.
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