It’s hard to get on top of your profession, but staying there is even harder. One might imagine that achieving greatness in his/her line of work is a struggle, and success is never just handed to you. When it comes to professional football players, they must be at their greatest during every single week and if they fail, the fans have no mercy on them. Consider a decent player like Jake Delhomme, who led his team to the Super Bowl but also committed six turnovers during a playoff game a few years later. Guess which one he’s more associated with and remembered for. Better yet, consider Rich Gannon, who ended his 2002 MVP season with five interceptions in the Super Bowl. The latter is the first thing that comes to mind when mentioning his name. Great success is always forgotten aid terrible failure.
However, an athlete can fall from grace because of his other actions off the field as well. That’s why off-the-field training is essential. Sometimes an athlete’s opinion should be appreciated, but in most cases it’s not something we want to hear. Some athletes turn out to be hard on their teammates, significant others or children. Others are so concerned with being in the limelight that they make themselves hard to accept by fans who loved them in the past. Here are 15 cases of active or recently-retired players that were once beloved, but are now disappointing and unbearable.
15. Michael Vick
He may have rehabilitated his image a bit, but animal cruelty will undoubtedly stay with Vick until the end of his days. The exceptional and quick quarterback was one of the most exciting players in league history when he played for the Falcons. He was loved by everyone until it was revealed that Vick was running a dog-fighting ring in his own home. If that’s not cruel enough, Vick used to hand dogs that did not perform well in rolling sessions – performed before fights, checking the animal’s readiness. He was sentenced to two years in prison for his actions, a verdict some people consider too harsh. The only good news about this story is that his dogs have found new homes.
14. Aqib Talib
As talented as he is controversial, Talib is not so much out to dominate his opponents as he is interested in actually harming them. In 2015 he shoved his fingers through an Indianapolis Colts player’s face mask in order to actually hurt him. The dirty play earned him a one-game suspension. It was not the first and probably not the last of his career. The worst incident came a year later though, as Talib was reported to be shot in the leg in front of a Dallas exotic dance club. It was later revealed that he shot himself and falsified his report to the police. Not smart. He notoriously does very mean things to other players and may very well be out of his mind.
13. Cam Newton
People have been hating on Newton for all the wrong reasons. Yes, he is flamboyant and his celebrations are elaborate, but he’s just enjoying the game. Cut the guy some slack and just have some fun, ok? In 2016, when his Panthers were the most exciting team in the NFL, Newton failed his teammates during the most important game of the season, when he didn’t recover his own fumble. That’s when it turned out that Cam was a sore loser. He’s also having a lot of issues with the press lately. He’s not only skipping press conference, but actually questioning female reporters’ knowledge of football. When Jourdan Rodrigue asked him about routes, he said that it was funny that a woman would actually ask him that. Seriously?
12. Lawrence Taylor
It’s hard to hate on Lawrence Taylor even though his story is universally known. He was so tough, so energetic and so sincere when he played, that it’s still hard to get around him being so messed up in his private life. The man starred in movies like Shaft or Any Given Sunday, and was appreciated by anyone, despite the fact that he spent tons of money on illegal substances and hired women. In 2010 Taylor was arrested for having relations with a 16 year old. In consequence he had to register himself as an offender, albeit a low-risk level one. He’s been involved in a lot of lady troubles and is currently living with his third wife.
11. Ray Lewis
He may now be known as the very energetic and very very wrong analyst, but not so long ago Ray was a true leader for the Baltimore Ravens. He led one of the league’s best defences to two Super Bowl victories. However, these wouldn’t have been possible if Lewis wouldn’t get off with just obstruction of justice following a trial he was involved in. After a Super Bowl party on the 31st of January, 2000 Lewis and his friends got into an altercation with another group, the result of which was the stabbing of two men. The victims’ blood was discovered in Lewis’ limousine. Lewis testified against his two friends, who were later acquitted of the charges. Thanks to special treatment Lewis stayed on the Ravens, but if this incident would occur now, he would be out of the NFL.
10. O.J. Simpson
The Juice had a stellar NFL career, he won an MVP trophy and was inducted into the Pro Football Hall of Fame in 1985. He later moved on to broadcasting and acting, and found success in both activities as well. In 1994 he was arrested and charged with taking the life of his ex-wife and her friend. The police chase of his white Bronco as well as his trial were largely televised. The jury acquitted him and Simpson was a free man. He lived rather recklessly though and in 2007 was charged with armed robbery and kidnapping. Sentenced in 2008, Simpson left prison just this year. Recently he has sued a casino for $100 million for not letting him in.
9. Sebastian Janikowski
The first kicker selected so highly in the draft – with the 17th pick – Janikowski proved that if anyone was such a gamble, it definitely was him. He has played the most games for the Raiders by any player in team history and for two years was the holder of the record of the longest field goal kick in league history. Not to mention he was the highest paid kicker in league history as well. The Pole is a big, overweight guy, in no way reminiscent of other kickers and he also doesn’t live like one off the field. His arrest record consists of driving under the influence, drinking and driving, as well as getting into bar fights. I guess he’s perfect for the Raiders!
8. Lance Rentzel
This one goes way back to the 1970s, as Lance Rentzel, the wide receiver/running back for the Dallas Cowboys, was married to Joey Heatherton, a variety show performer and a true beauty. In the year 1970 Rentzel exposed himself to a 10 year old girl. His wife divorced him and he promised to undergo psychiatric treatment. Opposing fans called him “No Pants Lance” and some claim that his wife never recovered from the damage. Rentzel didn’t only play in the league for a couple of more seasons, effectively retiring in 1975, but also participated in televised sketches and even wrote a book about the incident. The fact he was able to earn money after that is pretty disturbing.
7. Adrian Peterson
Adrian Peterson was a phenomenal running back during his first years with the Vikings. However, because of injury-shortened 2014 and 2016 seasons, during which he appeared in one and three games respectively, the team that originally drafted him in 2007 decided that it was time to part ways. It was not like Peterson’s reputation was stellar either – in 2014 he was charged with felony child abuse for beating up his four year old son. He beat the child so bad that he had serious scars and Peterson only showed remorse because he hit the kid in sensitive areas. Instead of apologizing in the media, he actually said that not many fathers were better than him. Really? Well then guess the 2 touchdowns and 2 interceptions for the Saints and the Cardinals this season serve him well.
6. Ray Rice
Rice is a Super Bowl Champion, a player integral to the Ravens’ success, as he made the Pro Bowl three times and was selected to second team All-Pro twice. He had an impressive career until 2014. This is when it was revealed that Ray Rice and his then fiance Janay Palmer got into a fight in a casino in Atlantic City. They were both intoxicated and, as it turned out, Rice dragged Palmer out of an elevator into the hallway after knocking her out with a punch. The video of the incident appeared on TMZ. The league suspended Rice for just two games of the 2014 season, but that wasn’t actually important, because he didn’t play another game for the Ravens or any other NFL team since. He has asked for forgiveness numerous times and is currently married to Palmer, but he hasn’t rehabilitated his image yet.
5. Josh Norman
Norman was considered one of the best cornerbacks in the league and an integral element of the exciting and fun to watch 2015 Carolina Panthers. That was until he decided to get paid and joined the Washington Redskins. He signed a large deal with one of the league’s least-liked franchises that will pay him $75 million for five years of play. He described the move as going “from dictatorship to freedom.” Ok. How then will he explain how his new team still has not even made the playoffs? Too much freedom? Norman however made a lot of money and even more enemies, as he abused Odell Beckham Jr. and Sam Bradford among others during interviews.
4. Dez Bryant
For a couple of seasons Dez Bryant was among the best wide receivers in the NFL. This season he broke the franchise record for receiving touchdowns, which was a good moment for a player lately held in not so high regard. This opinion is shared especially by his coaches, as Bryant ignores various obligations necessary of him. This applies to medical treatment and team meetings. Then there’s his contract, according to which he’s supposed to be paid $17 million this season. The problem is that he’s no longer the contributor that he was, which is also made impossible by his health issues. This season wasn’t particularly good for the Cowboys, and Bryant was one of the reasons for that.
3. Tom Brady
During a game of football it seems that Brady can do no wrong. The man is a legend, and arguably the best quarterback in NFL history. Once the final whistle blows however, it’s hard to like him. Just look at the time a Mexican journalist wanted to give Brady a Mexican National Soccer Team jersey after the Patriots played in the nation’s capital and the quarterback completely ignored him. It’s good that Marshawn Lynch was there to save the NFL from a small PR disaster. Then there’s also Deflategate. Football aside, consider his TB12 Method Book, which consists of advice regarding drinking water and his TB12 Electrolytes, which he markets to end. His ego makes him pretty tough to tolerate.
2. Richie Incognito
Well, yes, he was voted by the players as the dirtiest athlete in the NFL in 2009, but he was somewhat respected for his commitment to the game of football. However, it seems that with time Incognito went a bit too far with the whole commitment thing. In 2013 fellow defensive tackle Jonathan Martin left the team due to “emotional reasons”. It turned out that Incognito was responsible for harassing Martin using explicit language – including racial and homophobic slurs. Incognito became the most hated man in the NFL, but we know by now that no matter what you do or how violently you act, you’ll still have a place in the league if you’re good at football. So even though the Dolphins released Incognito, he was picked up by the Bills and is an anchor of their defence.
1. Greg Hardy
For a sixth round pick, Hardy has made quite a career. He’s also made quite a reputation for himself, and not in a good way. He has made gradual progress when playing for the Panthers and even made the Pro Bowl and second team All-Pro in 2013. The problems came when Hardy was arrested for assaulting his ex-girlfriend. The trial received extensive media coverage and the Panthers eventually released Hardy. The only team that gave him a chance were the Dallas Cowboys. He was one of the better defenders on the team, but his contract wasn’t extended after the season because of his inappropriate conduct on social media and around younger players. He’s now an MMA fighter.
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