The NFL is a league full of tough and gritty athletes. From what most fans see, the players are just out there to get their job done and get paid to do it. Little do most fans know, a lot of stuff goes on with NFL players behind the scenes. Some players are great for the team and fellow players, while others can become a major problem on and off the field.
With social media becoming a major factor in today’s society, it is pretty easy to find out which players are jerks and which are actually great people. For some athletes, social media can be a great thing because it allows them to share their efforts they make off the field. In other cases it can be used to see how big of a jerk a player is on and off the field. A good amount of NFL players have charities that they donate to and support. These guys are usually the players you see putting a smile on a fan’s face or going out of their way to do something good for teammates. There are also a fair share of players that are truly terrible people. These guys are usually all over the media and are known to stir controversy in and out of the locker room.
The NFL is just like any other business; there are some good guys but there are also some bad guys. With that being said let’s get into the topic, as we list 8 NFL players who are terrible people, and 7 who are sweethearts.
16. Jerk: Vontaze Burfict
Vontaze Burfict is known as one of the most physical players in the NFL. He is also one of the dirtiest players in the league. Most of Burfict’s controversy comes from incidents that happen on the field. He is a great player but he just seems to go to the next level way to often. One of Burfict’s most controversial moments happened during the 2016 AFC Wild Card game. Burfict was having a fantastic game but he blew it with one dirty hit. In the late seconds, Pittsburgh wide receiver Antonio Brown ran a route across the middle but the throw was high. Burfict hit Brown, and the Bengals were penalized 15 yards, putting the Steelers in range for a game-winning field goal. Not only did this cost his team the game, but he also went on to say that he was not sorry about the dirty hit.
15. Sweetheart: Matt Ryan
Falcons quarterback Matt Ryan has been one of the most consistent players in the game for years now. Not only is he a great football player, he is also a great person and teammate. Matt Ryan is a huge supporter of the Children’s Healthcare of Atlanta. Ryan hosts an annual celebrity golf tournament where the proceeds go directly to CHOA. Ryan also hosts an annual dinner called the “Dinner for two with No. 2”. At this dinner, Ryan donates $500 for every $1,500 donated. In the 2016 season the NFL did a “My Cleat, My Cause” campaign. Ryan participated and wore cleats that had CHOA’s logo on them. Ryan was also nominated for the Walter Payton Man of the Year award in 2016.
14. Jerk: Josh Gordon
The Cleveland Browns seem to never be able to catch a break. Josh Gordon has been one of the many major problems for the Browns. When on the field, Gordon is one of the best receivers in the game, but the problem is he cannot stay on the field. For Gordon, it’s not an injury problem, but it is a drug problem. I don’t think Gordon is intentionally a bad person, but him not being able to straighten his act for his team and his fans, it really shows his true personality. Gordon is still young though, and he seems like he is back to his superstar ways, but only time will tell if he will be able to keep up his good act.
13. Sweetheart: Alex Smith
Kansas City Chiefs quarterback Alex Smith is known as one of the best team leaders in the NFL. He also does his part when it comes to charity work. He has his own foundation called the Alex Smith foundation. Smith’s charity helps provide foster teens with the essentials needed to help transition to adulthood. Like Matt Ryan, Smith also represented his charity with his “My Cleat, My Cause” cleats. Smith was also rewarded for his hard work off the field by being nominated for the 2017 Walter Payton award. Smith doesn’t like self-promotion which shows that he is doing this out of the kindness of his heart.
12. Jerk: Adam Jones
Longtime Bengals corner Adam “Pacman” Jones has had his fair share of controversy during his long NFL career. Jones’ controversial reputation showed up early in his career. A fight in West Virginia caused Jones to be put on probation while being drafted. Jones also got into more trouble before making his NFL debut. He was arrested for assault and vandalism in 2005. In 2008, Jones was accused of hitting a woman at an Atlanta strip club. At the age of 35, Jones is still getting in trouble off the field. In early 2017, Jones was arrested on a number of charges in Cincinnati. It seems as years go by, Jones makes it more easy to dislike him everyday.
11. Sweetheart: Eric Berry
Chiefs safety Eric Berry is a fan favorite throughout the NFL and there are many reasons why. Berry is one of the best defensive players in the NFL but his biggest victory came off the field. In December of 2014, Berry was diagnosed with Hodgkin’s lymphoma. Berry won the fight against cancer and was cleared for practice by July. Berry participated in the Chiefs’ first preseason game of the 2014 season. This has made Berry a very inspirational figure in the NFL. He also proved his love for the game and for his team when he came back better than ever, and was even selected for the 2014 NFL Pro Bowl. He wore cleats to spread awareness for Hodgkin’s lymphoma during the “My Cleats, My Cause” campaign in 2017.
10. Jerk: Greg Hardy
Greg Hardy is probably one of the biggest wastes of talent in NFL history. In his case, being a completely terrible person ruined his whole NFL career. In 2014, while being a member of the Carolina Panthers, Hardy was arrested for allegedly beating and threatening his ex-girlfriend. NFL commissioner Roger Goodell suspended Hardy for ten games before the 2015 season started. The suspension was later knocked down to just four games. This moment basically knocked Hardy out of the league, due to teams not wanting such a toxic personality in the locker room. Hardy was also arrested for cocaine possession in 2016. He played his last NFL game in 2015 and is now pursuing a career in MMA.
9. Sweetheart: Cam Newton
Although Cam Newton has had his terrible moments in the past, he has made major strides as a person. Newton, like many others on this list, has his own charity called the Cam Newton foundation. His foundation helps address children’s social, educational and physical needs. Newton seems like he is one of the best teammates in the game. He is always picking up his team mates and he seems to make the game fun for everybody. Newton always seems to try to put a smile on fans’ faces and he is known to give the football to a lucky fan in the crowd after every touchdown he scores. Some people may hate him for his confident and fun attitude, but it is hard to deny that he is just an overall good person for the game on and off the field.
8. Jerk: Adrian Peterson
Adrian Peterson is one of the most dynamic players in NFL history. Even his crazy stats can’t cover up his controversy. In September of 2014, Peterson was charged with negligent injuries to a child. Photos were leaked of Peterson’s 4-year-old son with slash marks on the back of his legs. Peterson would only play one game during the 2014 NFL season due to being suspended for the rest of the season for this incident. Disciplining a child is one thing, but from the looks of the pictures, Peterson went way overboard with it. Peterson was also a pain for the Saints earlier this season when he was complaining about his role on the team, even though the Saints had two better, younger running backs in Alvin Kamara and Mark Ingram. There are definitely worse people on this list but this event was absolutely uncalled for.
7. Sweetheart: Jason Witten
Longtime Cowboys tight end Jason Witten is a sure lock for the Hall of Fame. He will go down in NFL history as one of the best players in history, on and off the field. Witten does a great amount of charity work through his own charity, The Jason Witten Foundation. The Jason Witten foundation works to help end domestic violence. Jason Witten struggled with domestic violence when he was younger, so the charity really hits close to home. Witten has a domestic violence protection program that is called “Turning Boys into Men.” This program works with local high schools in the Arlington, Texas area. Witten is also a very good teammate and he is known to put it all on the line for his team to win.
6. Jerk: Richie Incognito
Buffalo Bills Pro Bowl guard Richie Incognito may be a great football player but he is a disgrace as a person and teammate. In November of 2013, news surfaced that Incognito was harassing then-teammate Jonathan Martin. The harassing got so bad that Martin stated that he was scared of the “retribution, primarily from Incognito”. Reports also surfaced that Incognito made Martin pay him $15,000 for a trip to Las Vegas, even though Martin did not want to. On November 3rd, the team and the league got a hold of a number of very disturbing messages and voicemails. Some of these messages contained racial slurs and threats to Martin and his family. Incognito was then suspended for the rest of the 2013 season. Incognito also had an incident harassing a trainer, and was voted the dirtiest player in the NFL by fellow players in 2009.
5. Sweetheart: Larry Fitzgerald
It is very hard to find a reason to dislike Larry Fitzgerald unless he is absolutely destroying your team’s secondary (which is very likely). Fitzgerald has been a fan favorite in the league ever since he joined in 2004. The longtime Cardinal is a guaranteed Hall of Famer due to his career on the field but he is also very well known for his work off the field. Fitzgerald created the “Larry Fitzgerald First Down Fund” to provide children with safe and fun activities to participate in during the summer. His foundation also helps improve youth sports in areas like Arizona and Minnesota. Fitzgerald also created the “Carol Fitzgerald Memorial Fund,” which was created to show support to some of his mother’s charities. In October, Larry Fitzgerald, donates money to breast cancer based on the amount of touchdowns and catches he has.
4. Jerk: Ben Roethlisberger
Big Ben Roethlisberger will go down as one of the greatest quarterbacks in NFL history but that does not hide his events that took place off the field. In 2009, Roethlisburger had a civil suit filled against him for the sexual assault of Andrea McNulty. The lack of evidence made the case die down pretty quick. In 2010, Roethlisberger found himself in trouble for another such assault. This time the victim was a 20-year-old female at a college nightclub in Georgia in the women’s restroom. Again, the evidence was not efficient enough to make the case go much farther. The NFL suspended Roethlisberger for six games before the 2010 season and he had to go through a “professional behavior evaluation.” This suspension was later reduced to just four games.
3. Sweetheart: Drew Brees
Hurricane Katrina was one of the biggest natural disasters in history and Drew Brees did his best to help his city recover. Not only did he use his “Brees Dream Foundation” to help support New Orleans, he also led the Saints to their first Super Bowl title the following season.
“An athlete as adored and appreciated as any in an American city today”: this quote is from Sports Illustrated in an article from 2010. Brees’ foundation was founded in 2003 and was originally made to support cancer patients and research. As the years have gone by, Brees has kept expanding his foundation. In 2007, Brees teamed up with Operation Kids and they helped improve after-school activities for children in New Orleans. The people of New Orleans absolutely love Drew Brees and I think it is easy to see that Brees loves his city just as much.
2. Jerk: Ndamukong Suh
There are plenty of dirty players in the NFL, but I do not think anybody can top Ndamukong Suh. Suh has a history of being a dirty player. Some of the things he does on the field are just absolutely terrible. One of Suh’s most controversial moments came o Thanksgiving Day in 2011 in a game against the Green Bay Packers. After the play was already over, Suh decided to stomp on then Packers guard Evan Dietrich-Smith. That one play earned Suh a two-game suspension without pay. Suh is also known for his dirty plays on quarterbacks. In another Thanksgiving game in 2012, Suh was fined $30,000 for kicking former Texans quarterback Matt Schaub in the groin. Suh was voted the dirtiest player in the NFL and the voting wasn’t even close. And when all is said and done, he will go down as one of the dirtiest players in NFL history.
1. Sweetheart: J.J. Watt
J.J. Watt is only in his seventh year in the NFL and he is already one of the most feared defenders in NFL history. The only thing crazier than that is his charitable work. After Hurricane Harvey swept through Houston, Watt went above and beyond to help his city. He used his charity to raise over $37 million in relief funds to help out the city of Houston. J.J. Watt has proved countless times on and off the field that he would do what ever he could to help his team and his city. Watt seemed as if he was never going to slow down when it came to his charity work. He was also rewarded by Sports Illustrated for his hard work by being named one of the Sportspersons of the Year along with fellow Houston athlete, MLB’s Jose Altuve. Watt makes it very difficult to dislike him, with his dedication in football and life.
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