The NFL is a gladiator sport. Players put their lives and well being on the line each and every week. Over the years, athletes have grown faster and become stronger. The league says it has never been safer than it is today. Concussion awareness has reached an all time high. Still, the violence of the game cannot be completely eliminated – nor should it be. Like it or not, it’s established the league as America’s favorite sport.
A recent study by the University of Michigan monitored Division I players using a custom-fitted device on their shoulder pads. The study measured intensity and number of impacts using G-forces. For context, 5 G's of force is equivalent to a racecar braking and turning.
According to the numbers, running backs experienced the most impacts over 10 G’s. This is likely the result of gang tackles and head-on hits. Compared to running backs receiving the harshest individual hits, wide receivers and offensive lineman experienced light collisions more frequently. On the other side of the ball, defensive tackles partook in the hardest hitting clashes.
These numbers and forces came from college athletes. The damage only multiplies when applied to the supreme athletes in the NFL. Regardless of position, a few particular players seem more prone to bruising hits. Moving past the science and G-forces, here are the Top 15 NFLers Who Take the Most Vicious Hits.
15 15. Eddie Lacy
14 14. Robert Griffin III
The league’s best rookie a season before Lacy makes the list for the opposite reason. While Eddie Lacy welcomes and creates contact, Griffin cannot seem to withstand hits at the NFL level. His recent shoulder fracture is par for the course for both Griffin’s career and the soul crushing Cleveland franchise. The Brown bypassed drafting a quarterback in favor of signing Griffin to a $15 million contract over the offseason. Griffin broke his shoulder during a week one loss to the rookie Cleveland could have drafted at No. 2, in Carson Wentz.
13 13. James Harrison
12 12. Clay Matthews
11 11. Rob Gronkowski
10 10. Wes Welker
9 9. Kam Chancellor
8 8. Anquan Boldin
7 7. Frank Gore
6 6. Jason Witten
Jason Witten has demonstrated remarkable durability throughout his career. He’s a throwback footballer with modern day receiving skills, quietly amassing the second most receiving yards of any tight end in NFL history. Witten is 34-years-old and entering his fourteenth season, playing 16 games in all but his rookie season. That year, after fracturing his jaw in October, he only appeared in 15 games. How soft, right?
5 5. Ben Roethlisberger
4 4. Ndamukong Suh
3 3. Julian Edelman
2 2. Adrian Peterson
1 1. Cam Newton
Cam Newton finally arrived as one of the game’s true superstars last season, throwing 35 touchdowns and adding 10 more with his feet. He won the MVP award and led Carolina to the NFC Championship. All that is missing from his star power is the calls that normally come with it. The NFL’s 2016 opener between Carolina and Denver acted as a microcosm of the referee’s treatment toward Newton in 2015. Newton received numerous hits to the head during the game and the only roughing the passer call the whole night was nullified by an intentional grounding. During his MVP season, Cam Newton did not receive a single roughing the passer call. Newton likely misses out on penalties due to his prowess as a runner, but that doesn’t mean the hits aren’t coming. Even if his placement at number one partly stems from recency bias, Newton consistently opens himself to danger both inside and outside the pocket.
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