A National Football League locker room is supposed to be a place where teammates come together and form bonds that are based on achieving the goal of winning a Super Bowl championship. There are numerous recent examples of NFL players forging friendships with teammates that have resulted in that particular team finding success on the field. DeMarcus Ware and Von Miller of the Denver Broncos quickly began a teacher-mentor relationship that turned into a friendship and both men were instrumental in the Broncos defeating the Carolina Panthers at Super Bowl 50. We may, down the road, be able to say that the friendship between Ware and Miller changed Miller’s career for the better.
For every example of solid NFL teammates who have been easy to get along with and who have been gems for teams, there are all kinds of cases of awful NFL teammates who, at times, were not worth the headaches that they gave to coaches and to front offices. This does not, however, necessarily mean that the worst teammates in NFL history were all bad players. Truth be told, the Pro Football Hall of Fame could one day be filled with a wing of players who also happened to be bad teammates. There is not always a link between personality and talent.
With all of that said, the NFL in 2016 is a different world than what the league was even a decade ago. Personalities and teammates who would have been tolerated by other players and by coaches back in the day may struggle to find a home in today’s NFL. Chemistry and knowing that a player can be counted on to not be any kind of distraction are just as important as talent during evaluation processes, and thus athletes who can undeniably get the job done on the field may get passed over by teams all because of their reputations. Our advice to any would-be NFL player: Learn to be the best teammate that you can possibly be and do so early into your playing days. You’ll be better off for it.
20. Johnny Manziel
We start with a pair of young quarterbacks who could still turn their careers around, the first being the man who used to be known as “Johnny Football.” Johnny Manziel famously had his rookie season referred to as a “100 percent joke” by an unnamed Cleveland Browns teammate, and Manziel was not able to prove to the Browns in 2015 that he was worth the trouble. The weird thing about Manziel’s stint with the Browns is that he was, as it pertained to his personality, liked by many within the locker room. The Browns needed better from Manziel as a teammate and as a player, though.
19. Robert Griffin III
You do not have to search far to read about how Robert Griffin III became a supposed locker room cancer with the Washington Redskins following his outstanding rookie campaign. Griffin allegedly “alienated himself” from others in the locker room, and he was also reportedly not a favourite among at least some offensive linemen playing for the Redskins at the time. It is, thus, somewhat ironic that new Cleveland Browns head coach Hue Jackson has acquired Griffin to be the replacement for Johnny Manziel. Will RG3 be able to do what Manziel could not with the Browns?
18. Lawrence Phillips
Lawrence Phillips could have been one of the best running backs to play in the NFL in the past 30 years. Phillips was a mess for the majority of his career in the NFL, however, as he got in trouble with the law and was an inconsistent player who missed meetings while with the St. Louis Rams. The story became even sadder after Phillips’ playing days ended, as he ended up in jail on assault charges. Phillips was accused of killing his cellmate in 2015, but he never stood trial regarding that incident. The former player was found dead in his cell in January 2016. It is believed that he took his own life.
17. Percy Harvin
Percy Harvin could be an asset for multiple NFL teams in 2016, and yet the possibility exists that he may never again play in a regular season game. The reason for this is that Harvin has been trouble for teams in the past and he may not be able to shake that reputation. Harvin allegedly punched fellow wide receiver Golden Tate when the two were playing together for the Seattle Seahawks. It has also been reported that Harvin had problems with quarterback Russell Wilson. A wide receiver who has not gotten along with fellow WRs and with fellow QBs in the past will struggle to find work in the NFL unless he has elite skills.
16. Jeff George
Those who were able to see him play when he was in his physical prime know that Jeff George had a great arm and that George could have been a special quarterback if not for his personality. Among the many stories that have been floated out there about George in the past are allegations that he was known to ridicule offensive linemen as a member of the Indianapolis Colts. George was also accused of lashing out at wide receivers who committed miscues during games. The perception had by some in Indianapolis was that George was arrogant and George did not do himself any favours by refusing to report to training camp in 1993. For all of his talent, George was not worth the problems he presented.
15. Damontre Moore
Fans of the New York Giants were not all that surprised in December 2015 to read that the Giants had parted ways with Damontre Moore. It had been learned that Moore had an altercation with teammate Cullen Jenkins and that was the final straw for the Giants. Jay Glazer of FOX Sports later reported that incident was not a one-off, and that Moore had been trouble for the Giants “since day one of training camp.” Moore had allegedly had similar altercations with other teammates in 2015 and the Giants were finished hoping that Moore would learn how to become a better teammate. Moore has since been acquired by the Miami Dolphins.
14. Dez Bryant
There is no question that Dallas Cowboys wide receiver Dez Bryant is, physically speaking, one of the best wide receivers in the NFL today. The issue with Bryant is that his attitude seems to get in the way of his talent literally every season. When Bryant is not shooting darts via his eyes at quarterback Tony Romo after Romo makes a mistake, he is getting into shoving matches with players such as Greg Hardy on the sideline during a game. Bryant could prove to be worthy of a spot in the Hall of Fame a decade from now, but he will first need to check his emotions as a member of the Dallas roster.
13. Justin Gilbert
Critics have understandably lashed out at former Cleveland Browns quarterback Johnny Manziel for the way that he has handled himself since entering the NFL in 2014. Cornerback Justin Gilbert, also selected by the Browns in the first round of the 2014 NFL Draft, has been an even bigger mistake. Kevin Jones of Cleveland Scene wrote about Gilbert’s first two seasons in the league, campaigns during which Gilbert seemingly appeared disinterested in playing pro football. Maybe Gilbert will be able to turn things around, but all indications as of April 2016 are that Gilbert will be a bust.
12. Aaron Hernandez
We now, obviously, know that former New England Patriots tight end Aaron Hernandez is a sociopath, somebody capable of murdering at least one person and possibly of killing two other innocent men. Only after the first Hernandez murder case became public did we get a true idea of the type of teammate Hernandez was at different times of his career. Most notably, Hernandez once legitimately threatened then-teammate Wes Welker. All we can do now is wonder if the Patriots could have been able to do anything to help Hernandez or stop him from committing the crimes that landed him behind bars for the rest of his natural life.
11. Plaxico Burress
The New York Giants knew that Plaxico Burress was a handful during the fall of 2008, less than a year after Burress had helped the team win a Super Bowl. Big Blue had reportedly fined Burress “40-50 times” during his tenure with the club for a variety of infractions, such as being late to meetings. Burress went from being an annoyance to a cancer when he accidentally shot himself in November 2008. That incident resulted in Burress never again playing for the Giants and it played a significant role in a talented New York side failing to repeat as Super Bowl champions.
10. Keyshawn Johnson
There are plenty of ways that a young wide receiver can show appreciation to his NFL teammates. Writing a book that carries the title Throw Me The Damn Ball is certainly not one of those ways. It also probably did not help that Johnson referred to fellow New York Jets wide receiver Wayne Chrebet as “a short, little white guy” in that same book. Johnson is now a television analyst who has come a long ways since being known as “Me-Shawn” during his NFL career. We have to assume that Johnson is a better teammate now than he ever was as a pro athlete.
9. Steve Smith
Steve Smith has been one of the best wide receivers of his time and we are hoping that he will be able to recover from a torn Achilles that he suffered in 2015 and return to the Baltimore Ravens for one last season before he calls time on his career. We also cannot ignore that Smith was not always the best of teammates while featuring for the Carolina Panthers. Smith was involved in fights with teammates on multiple occasions, and it is widely believed that Smith and Carolina quarterback Cam Newton had their issues. If nothing else, Smith sometimes let his competitive nature get the best of him.
8. Randy Moss
All things considered, Randy Moss may be the most talented wide receiver in the history of the NFL. Yes, such a comment implies that Moss could have been better than Jerry Rice. Moss showed that he was a once-in-a-generation talent during his best seasons with Tom Brady and the New England Patriots. The shame of Moss’ career is that he eventually wore out his welcome with every team that gave him a shot. A resume filled with impressive stats also contains blemishes in the forms of Moss being a diva who would become disinterested after a time regardless of the situation. Moss could have been truly special had he wanted to accomplish that goal.
7. IK Enemkpali
Is it unfair to put IK Enemkpali on this list largely because of one incident? Maybe. Is it true that we don’t know exactly why Enemkpali thought it wise to punch Geno Smith in the face and sideline Smith to the point that Ryan Fitzpatrick became the starting quarterback of the New York Jets in 2015? It is, and it is also true that Enemkpali proved to be a blessing in disguise for the Jets because of how well Fitzpatrick played in relief of Smith. Nevertheless, going Mike Tyson on the man who could have been the starting quarterback is a sign of a player who was maybe not the best locker room presence at that given point.
6. Ryan Leaf
We struggled with where to put Ryan Leaf in this piece and even if he should be included in the first place. The former first-round pick clashed with teammates and other individuals involved with the San Diego Chargers during his brief stint in the NFL. Leaf was also somebody who was clearly disturbed and obviously not ready to handle all that came with being a starting NFL quarterback. The legal troubles Leaf encountered after he was bounced out of the NFL have been documented. All we can hope now is that Leaf has found peace and that he is on the right path in his personal life.
5. Freddie Mitchell
We can only dedicate so much space to any one athlete in this piece and thus you may want to head over to your favourite Internet search engine to read about the multiple times that former Philadelphia Eagles wide receiver Freddie Mitchell decided to throw Donovan McNabb under the bus. Perhaps our favourite instance would be Mitchell saying after the fact that McNabb should have been benched during Super Bowl XXXIX. FredEx, as he was known, always made for a fascinating interview and an entertaining presence for fans. Nobody will, however, confuse Mitchell for being a great NFL teammate.
4. Richie Incognito
Granted, those of us who were not there may not understand all that happened between offensive lineman Richie Incognito and teammate Jonathan Martin when the two were playing for the Miami Dolphins. What is known, however, is that Incognito had “behavioral problems” during his college days, and those issues followed him to the NFL until he and the Dolphins parted ways after it was alleged that Incognito “bullied” Martin. Incognito has been given a second chance in the NFL by the Buffalo Bills. We will see if Incognito is able to be a better teammate this time around.
3. Albert Haynesworth
Albert Haynesworth is a different case of a bad NFL teammate in that Haynesworth broke an unwritten rule of the sports world: He (allegedly) stopped trying and stopped caring after he signed a massive contract in free agency. Haynesworth was nothing short of a disaster after signing for the Washington Redskins, reportedly showing up out of shape and causing problems for coaches and for teammates. It is widely perceived that Haynesworth could be the worst free agency acquisition in the history of the NFL and he continues to serve as a warning as it pertains to teams splashing the cash on veterans who may have questionable personalities.
2. Terrell Owens
We will just come right out and say it: The only reason that Terrell Owens was not a first-ballot Hall-of-Famer is because of the perception that he was a selfish and awful teammate. Owens may not have always gotten along with quarterbacks such as Jeff Garcia and Donovan McNabb, and there are probably many things about his career and his personal life that Owens wishes that he could go back and change. Owens may, at times, have been a bad teammate. That’s fair. Owens also deserves to be enshrined in Canton, and he will one day have his ceremony that should have occurred in August 2016.
1. Bill Romanowski
For as talented as Bill Romanowski was during his career, it would not be a stretch to suggest that the NFL would have been better off had he and others like him never played in the league. Romanowski was involved in multiple unflattering incidents as a player, the worst of which probably being when he clocked then-teammate Marcus Williams. That incident left Williams with serious injuries that ended the player’s career. Romanowski is lucky that he did not face serious time in prison over that incident, as even an outside observer could clearly see that he was guilty of assault.
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