Out of all the professional sports, one can make the argument that football is the most grueling. NFL players put their bodies on the line every Sunday, much to the delight of football fanatics, all in the hopes of obtaining one single goal: the Lombardi Trophy. Fans see the brutal nature of the game every time their favorite team takes the gridiron. Whether it be a receiver getting crunched by a safety across the middle, a running back pounding his way through the line of scrimmage, or a quarterback getting trounced by an incoming defensive end, this game is not for the faint of heart.
Due to the physical torment and punishment that NFL players endure over the course of their careers, the shelf life of a football player is not very long. Depending on the position, players on average only last in the league for a handful of years and are only at their prime for a very short duration. The smart players call it quits while they’re ahead, leaving the game on their own jurisdiction and not being forced out by injury or evaporation of talent.
Unfortunately, this cannot be said for every player that has come through the NFL. There are a number of players who simply cannot give up the game they love and aren’t able to hang up their cleats. It’s rather unfortunate. There have been many players who put together a Hall of Fame career during their peak playing days, only to have the tail end of their career tarnished by poor play or a banged up body. Here are the Top 15 NFL players who overstayed their welcome, ones that should’ve thrown in the towel a lot earlier than they did.
15 Isaac Bruce
14 Deion Sanders
Nicknamed “Primetime,” Deion Sanders was one of the best athletes of our generation. A multi-sport star, Neon Deon was exciting to watch on both the football field as well as the baseball diamond. In the NFL, he was a fearless cornerback, garnering eight All-Pro honors, a defensive player of the year award in 1994, as well as two Super Bowl championships in the mid-90s. After a brief stint with Washington in 2001, the Florida State product retired after a lackluster season.
13 Rodney Harrison
12 Fred Taylor
11 Simeon Rice
10 Joe Namath
9 O.J. Simpson
8 Torry Holt
7 Ed Reed
6 Jerry Rice
Rice is widely considered the greatest wide receiver of all time, and for good reason. During his 16-year stint in San Francisco, Rice put together quite the resume. He currently is the record holder for the three major receiving statistics: catches, yards and touchdown catches. He’s also a three-time Super Bowl champion, two-time offensive player of the year and 13-time Pro Bowler. Even after 16 years in the league, Rice still believed he had some left in the tank. He played three average seasons in Oakland and was traded to Seattle mid way through his fourth.
5 Johnny Unitas
4 Eric Dickerson
Eric Dickerson is one of the best running backs to ever play the game, and his career accolades and records held back that up. He’s a six-time Pro Bowler, four-time season rushing yards leader, league MVP and his 2,105 rushing yards in 1984 is still the record for most in a season. However, the legendary back just couldn’t call it quits at the right time. After successful five-year stints with both the Rams and Colts, Dickerson joined the Raiders for a mediocre two-touchdown season in 1992.
3 Randy Moss
2 Brett Favre
I’m not sure anyone loved the game more than more than Brett Favre. His record streak of 297 consecutive starts (321 including playoffs) is unprecedented in the NFL. His honors speak for themselves: 11 Pro Bowls, three-time MVP, four-time season passing yards leader and Super Bowl champion. He also holds the record for most completions and is tied with Peyton Manning for most wins as a quarterback. However, it was Favre’s undying love for the game that plagued the tail end of his career. In early March of 2008, Favre gave a tear-filled retirement speech as Green Bay Packer. This was all for not as he decided to play again, though the Packers were not interested.
1 Terrell Owens
Not many receivers in the game could push Jerry Rice out of town, but T.O. did just that. Owens became a star in San Francisco, becoming a four-time Pro Bowler. Owens continued his great play in both Philadelphia and Dallas, still dependable for seasons over 1,000 yards and 10-plus touchdown receptions. Though Owens skills began to decline, his love for the game did not. He stuck around for two decent seasons in Buffalo and Cincinnati. After a torn ACL sidelined him in the 2011 offseason, Owens held a televised workout free agent work out the following, which no NFL teams attended.
With no suitors, he opted for the Indoor Football League’s Allen Wranglers, whom eventually released him due to lack of effort. The Seahawks gave him a low risk shot in 2012, only to release him weeks later. Despite not having played since 2010 and garnering no interest league wide, Owens still believes he can play and has yet to officially retire.
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