If there is one thing that NFL teams don't need to deal with, it's off the field issues. The NFL is grueling enough as it is, but when some of your players are suspended and can't play it becomes impossible. The worst part about off field issues is that they are completely avoidable. One of the top reasons players are getting suspended by the NFL is the use of substances deemed illegal by the league.
Nothing makes me madder than when a player with all of the gifts in the world ruin their career with something that they could have steered clear of. Blowing your opportunity to be an NFL player, an opportunity that very few people come by, is like throwing money into a fire. It is so easy not to screw up. Just don't break the law or break the rules of the NFL and you have it made... But it's a bit harder than that for football players for some reason. It seemed to me that this was happening all too often so I compiled a list of players who ruined their careers with drugs. If they could've stayed off of the league's banned substances, they could have had great careers.
Without further adieu, here is our list of players who ruined their career with substances. Enjoy!
15 Joseph Randle
Joseph Randle has a very long list of legal troubles including but not limited to, possession of marijuana, assault, battery, and burglary. It's only fitting that he played for the Cowboys because their players always seem to be getting in trouble. Randle's career has been put on pause and probably stopped altogether because he is currently in prison and it doesn't seem like he'll be getting out anytime soon because he threatened a prison guard, “I swear on my life and everything that I have, I will kill you when I get out," which is a felony. What a sweetheart. He also ripped a TV off of the wall and got charged with criminal property damage. It's a pity to see a player waste so much talent.
14 Todd Marinovich
Todd Marinovich was supposed to represent the future of the QB position. Coming out of USC, Marinovich had the look of a star. He played college ball at USC and was then drafted by the Oakland Raiders, but by that time Marinovich was already hooked on multiple substances. Marinovich's problems with drugs began in high school, where his substances of choice were weed and ecstasy but in college he developed an addiction to heroin and once he signed a big money NFL contract, it only gave him more money to obtain substances.
The young QB had a lot of pressure from him at a young age, as an overzealous father had him lifting weights before he could write.
Marinovich only played two years for the Raiders then went on to play in the CFL, but substances are undoubtedly what ruined his NFL career.
13 Darrell Russell
Darrell Russell was highly touted coming out of USC. He was the second overall pick and had a rookie contract of seven years, $22 million. At the time, it was the richest rookie contract in NFL history, and seven years is a long time! Regardless of his contract, Russell couldn't stay off of drugs to save his life. He failed his first drug test in 2001 but that was only his first of seven failed drug tests administered by the NFL. That has to be some type of record. The most amazing thing is that he wasn't suspended for that long and was actually able to have a six year career. But whoe knows, if he wasn't on drugs he might have been able to play another six.
12 Ryan Leaf
Every NFL fan knows about Ryan Leaf; he was one of the biggest busts the league has ever seen. Fortunately for the Colts, they chose Peyton Manning instead of the train wreck that is Ryan Leaf. He was a jerk, he was cocky, he had no work ethic, and most of all, he was terrible. In 2009, he was arrested for burglary and controlled substance abuse. He was arrested many more times after that including possession of a dangerous drug, whatever that means. He went to a correctional facility but was ultimately sentenced to 5 years in prison. Leaf was never mature enough to be in the league and the teams should have been able to tell that before that draft. Manning was clearly the more classy and better pick.
11 Leonard Little
Leonard Little was a linebacker/defensive end drafted by the Rams. In 1998 he was drunk driving and killed another person. He failed the field sobriety tests and was given a breathalyzer. Even though he killed a woman, he didn't serve any jail time and only had four years of probation. Little was again caught DUI in 2004 and had to serve two more years of probation. He was going 78 in a 55 mile per hour zone. Little had a productive NFL career but it could have been much better if it wasn't tainted by his mistakes off of the field. When people think of Leonard Little they are more likely to think about his DUIs than his play on the field.
10 Don Rogers
Don Rogers is a bit of a throwback, but his story is tragic. Rogers was a safety who played in the 80's for the Browns. He was the 18th pick in the 1984 NFL draft and won Defensive Rookie of the Year honors. Tragically, just a day before his wedding, he had a heart attack triggered by a cocaine overdose and died. Rogers died just days after Len Bias had died from a cocaine overdosed as well. The two lead the way for the discussion of the connection between drugs and athletes. Rogers' family was extremely surprised when they heard the news and even more surprised when they heard it was from an overdose. They didn't recall him ever using drugs in the past.
9 Odell Thurman
Odell Thurman was a great player, but he had serious drug and alcohol issues. The first drug test that he failed he actually never took, but never showed up. This is an automatic fail in the eyes of the NFL. A bit after this, he was caught drunk driving. He pleaded no contest to the charge and sought help for his alcohol abuse. After he was released, he allegedly kicked and hit two people and also punched a guy in the face at a waterpark. It sounds like he needs some help with his anger management. He was ultimately suspended for two whole seasons and that ended his career in the NFL. He did make a return to football, but it was in the United Football League not the NFL.
8 Jerome Simpson
Jerome Simpson, who was best known for flipping over a defender into the endzone for a touchdown, is now out of a job. He was once a second round pick, but now can't find a team to play for and that is thanks to his record with banned substances. His first suspension came in 2012 for banned substances but that isn't where his story starts. In 2011 police intercepted a package headed for Simpson's house and found 2.5 pounds of weed and when they searched his house they found six more pounds along with a scale. He spent 15 days in jail, 200 hours of community service, and three years of probation. He was released by the 49ers in 2016. It's hard to find a job when you have a history of being bad news for the organizations you play for.
7 Will Hill
Will Hill was an undrafted free agent. The Giants picked him up but he wasn't an impact player. Then the Ravens gave him a shot. He played well and they signed him to a longer term deal. In 2012 he was caught using Adderall, a prescription drug banned by the league. He was caught a second time and was suspended for four games. The third time, however, was the breaking point. He was forced to serve a 6 game suspension. Hill also had a warrant for his outstanding child support payments.
In 2016, the Ravens supposedly heard that he had failed a fourth drug test so they released him before the league could suspend him. He hasn't been on an NFL team since.
6 LaRon Landry
LaRon Landry is the guy on the left. Can you take a guess as to which substance he got caught for using? If not, you might need some glasses because it is so obvious that this guy is roided out. If you don't know anything about Landry you might think he is a huge running back, linebacker or maybe even a defensive lineman, but no, he is a safety... how can he even move his arms? Landry shouldn't have even had to be tested for steroids I think the eye test would suffice. However, he was tested and he failed. 2014 was the first time he failed a drug test and after that he failed two more times and hasn't been on an NFL team since. He was a great player but was it him or the steroids that made him good? That's for you to decide.
5 Donte Stallworth
Donte Stallworth was a deep play threat on the field. In his rookie year, he produced, scoring eight touchdowns. He followed it up with multiple good seasons after that. In 2007 when he was on the Eagles, it was the first time that he was entered into the league's substance abuse program. This ended his run with the Eagles. After a year with the Patriots, he signed with the Ravens. That year he was driving and struck and killed a pedestrian. It was later found out that he was drunk and was high on marijuana. If one thing is for sure, it's that those three things don't mix well. Somehow, he was reinstated by the league and was able to continue playing. However, he never produced like he did before the incident when he looked to be a multiple time pro-bowler.
4 Aldon Smith
Aldon Smith is a highly skilled young outside linebacker who has played for the 49ers and Raiders so far during his career. When he is playing he is a sack machine and could be one of the league's best pass rushers. Unfortunately, he can't stay on the field. He has had three DUI's and suspicion of marijuana. and recently was suspended for an entire year after he was caught in a hit and run and is currently applying for reinstatement but according to reports isn't even close to reinstatement.
Smith could be vying for defensive player of the year awards annually, but instead watches games from his couch because he is suspended. There's no telling when he will be coming back from this either, he has a long history which never helps.
3 Ricky Williams
Ricky Williams couldn't stay off of the weed. Williams was a great running back while he was playing, but after testing positive for marijuana, he decided to cut his career short and retire from the NFL. He made a comeback and failed another drug test but actually played really well despite being well into his thirties. Williams later retired because he said it would be very embarrassing to fail a third drug test.
Williams claims to smoke weed because it cures him of his social anxiety disorder. After his career, he worked with GlaxoSmithKline to educate people about his disorder and explain how weed worked way better for him than any prescription drug. While an argument can be made that marijuana should in fact not be a banned substance, the bottom line is that it is, and Williams made his choice.
2 Johnny Manziel
Johnny Manziel was one of the most immature players to ever step foot on an NFL field. Manziel threw away his career before it even started because he never took it seriously. Manziel was more interested in going out with friends and partying than he was with Sunday afternoons. Maziel was a controversial stud in college. He would remind people of his nickname "Money Manziel" by flashing money signs after touchdowns and was cocky as ever. His cockiness, however, wasn't unwarranted as he is the first player to ever win the Heisman in their Freshman year. Manziel is just one of many Browns QB's that have been busts over the last few years. They're just looking for something to root for and they can't find it.
1 Josh Gordon
Josh Gordon had such a bright future before he blew it with marijuana. He was one of the most talented young players in the NFL and produced big numbers even on the Browns with their ugly Quarterback situation. Gordon was one of my favorite players in the league while he was in his prime, even though it was short lived.
Gordon has been busted multiple times for marijuana, DUI, and alcohol (the league disallowed him from drinking because of his history). It's a shame that Gordon can't quit and has to spend his young life in rehab instead of playing the game that he loves. He has also applied for reinstatement many times but has been denied every time. Hopefully, he can get one last chance.