There is no shortage of proof that the workplace can be an environment of many different personalities, some of whom might rub each other the wrong way when under pressure. Now, imagine that type of dynamic between professional athletes in the high-octane, testosterone-heavy environment of the National Football League, and one easily understands how bad relationships, and even physical altercations, can develop.
But on the other hand, anyone who has ever played a sport can attest to the camaraderie and friendship that can develop from the pressurized and intense experience. This is no less true in professional football than in high school, and we have seen some truly remarkable, sometimes unlikely friendships between players emerge.
Although NFL players can often be deified, considered as above the fray of mere mortals like us, they are ultimately just human beings like anyone else. They are all members of organizations with the same goal: to win games and earn championships. As such, they are prone to form friendships, rivalries, and animosities with each other, leading to these remarkable cases of former teammates that hate each other and those that remain great friends to this day.
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15 Hated Each Other: Michael Westbrook & Stephen Davis
In sports, occasionally when adrenaline is running high and the line between victory and defeat rests on a few minutes' worth of action, there will be verbal spats, staredowns, and even physical altercations between players. We see this in virtually every game and league, but usually the animosity plays out between players on opposing teams, not teammates.
Of course, for every rule there is an exception! In 1997, during the Washington Redskins training camp, wide receiver Michael Westbrook and running back Stephen Davis got into an intense argument, which ultimately led to a physical exchange. Westbrook beat on Davis so badly that the running back considered pressing charges against him. The league later fined Westbrook $50,000 for the altercation, and it remains the most significant event in the receiver's career.
Davis retired from the NFL in 2008, after 11 seasons. Westbrook left the league in 2002 to pursue a brief career in mixed martial arts—fitting, given his apparent proclivity to punching people's faces.
14 Friends: Chris Baker & Terrance Knighton
Chris Baker may have never started playing football if not for Terrance Knighton. These high school classmates have been friends since they were children, and Knighton convinced Baker, who had previously set his sights on the NBA, to try out for the football team in his junior year.
They parted ways in college, but Baker and Knighton both entered the 2009 NFL Draft, where Knighton was picked by the Jacksonville Jaguars in the third round. Although Baker went undrafted, he was eventually signed by the Broncos. Despite being apart, these two childhood friends had both achieved their shared dream of joining the NFL.
In 2015, they were once again teammates for a season, when Knighton was drafted to Washington, where he played 15 games alongside Baker until signing with the Patriots the following season.
13 Hated Each Other: Peyton Manning & Mike Vanderjagt
It's hard to imagine Peyton Manning—the goofy, chicken-parm-loving, oafish father figure of the NFL—hating anyone, but then there's Mike Vanderjagt. Despite retiring as one of the most accurate kickers in the game's history, Vanderjagt's career was not without some remarkable blunders, not least of all the missed kick that cost the Indianapolis Colts a trip to the 2005 AFC Championship game.
In the wake of the Colts' 2002 playoff defeat, Vanderjagt was vocal about his opinion that Manning and head coach Tony Dungy lacked the effectiveness to lead a team to postseason success and, ultimately, a Super Bowl. Manning responded in kind by calling Vanderjagt the Colts' "idiot kicker."
Their distaste for one another never became more public than that, but one can reasonably assume that they never forgot the unkind remarks they had made about each other.
12 Friends: Peyton Manning & Von Miller
Despite the occasional rocky patch—such as in 2013 when Manning lobbied for Broncos head coach John Fox to send Von Miller home from a game for staying out past team curfew the night before—the linebacker and the quarterback maintain a positive relationship.
The relationship may not have always been perfect, but one could see how Manning's insistence to Fox that Miller be sent home from a game derived more from caring for the team's best interest than of personal malice.
Speaking to NFL.com about Manning as a player, Miller credited the QB with influencing the Broncos defense to constantly improve during the season that would earn them the Super Bowl 50 championship and Miller the title of Super Bowl MVP. After Manning's decision to end his career, Miller was among the guests at Peyton's retirement party, and even named a chicken after his old teammate.
11 Hated Each Other: Golden Tate & Percy Harvin
The week of Super Bowl XLVIII, which the Seahawks would win via a serious blowout, Percy Harvin and Golden Tate probably should have been training hard and then resting as much as possible, but instead came to blows over a perceived slight. Harvin claims that Tate did not respect his role on the roster, downplaying whether the controversial wide receiver played an integral role in the Seahawks' unstoppable offense.
Considering this was not the last time Harvin had had a physical altercation with a teammate—he and Doug Baldwin came to blows later that year—it was perhaps a wise decision for the Seahawks to trade the receiver away to the Jets. Since his various moves, including arriving at the Bills for the last two seasons, Harvin has maintained relative silence, missing most of the 2016 season due to injury and illness. No further fistfights have been reported.
10 Friends: Cam Netwon & Josh Norman
Although these two former teammates have scuffled and exchanged their fair share of trash talk, Cam Newton and Josh Norman seem to maintain a healthy respect and admiration for each other. As integral members of the Panthers' Super Bowl 50 run, the young quarterback and cornerback put up explosive performances throughout the 2015 season and were often seen off the field and on the sidelines exchanging friendly behavior.
Since Norman's signing with Washington in 2016, the Panthers and Redskins have met, with Carolina coming out on top. In this game, we were treated to Norman playing secondary opposite Newton's drives.
Speaking to reporters after the game, Newton suggested he and Norman would have a spirited conversation via text later on to discuss the matchup. In the post-game rush on the field, Newton and Norman sought each other out in the crowd to exchange hugs and a few laughs, suggesting that, despite no longer being teammates, they maintain a great relationship.
9 Hated Each Other: Johnny Manziel & An Anonymous Teammate
"100 percent joke," are the words used to describe Johnny Manziel by an anonymous Browns teammate. They have since become a branding of sort, a handy three-word phrase that summarizes the disastrous two seasons the Heisman winner spent in Cleveland.
Despite the great promise shown in Manziel's time at Texas A&M—which included many accolades, school records, and earning his nickname "Johnny Football"—the young quarterback's first season with the Browns was plagued by shoddy play, including in a total shut-out against the Bengals.
In addition to, or perhaps as a cause of, his Manziel's poor play, he was frequently embroiled with off-field controversy that stemmed from his hard-partying lifestyle. In just two short seasons with Cleveland, he made an infamous name of himself and did nothing to help the struggling franchise turn their ship around. It's really no wonder that some of his teammates despised him.
8 Friends: Johnny Manziel & Josh Gordon
On the other hand, Johnny Manziel found one friend in Cleveland: the equally revelrous Josh Gordon. After being suspended from the season for multiple drug violations, Gordon has all but disappeared from the NFL for the last two years. These two former Browns have bonded off the field at parties and concerts, including at Coachella Music Festival last summer.
Although each man has been said to be trying to get sober and return to football, it seems that they maintain a positive friendship despite their hard-partying past. Gordon said in an interview of Manziel: "That's my friend, first and foremost." He went on to express hope that Manziel can stay clean and achieve his goals.
It's hard to imagine either of these two returning to the NFL, given their sordid relationship with the league and their teammates, but it at least seems they were able to forge a positive friendship out of the controversy.
7 Hated Each Other: Jay Cutler & J'Marcus Webb
Over the past few years, Jay Cutler seems to have gotten a chip on his shoulder. His relationships with various teammates, including a major, public falling out with former friend Brandon Marshall, who claims he and Cutler haven't spoken in over two years.
Once, Cutler's temper and frustration with his teammates got the best of him on national television. In 2012, during a game against the Green Bay Packers in which Cutler was sacked four times, the Bears QB was seen verbally berating and shoving offensive tackle J'Marcus Webb, for a perceived inability by Webb to protect the line. The Bears would go on to lose this game 23-10, during which Cutler threw four interceptions.
In the fallout of this episode, Cutler and Webb's teammate D.J. Moore expressed support for Webb, calling Cutler's attitude unfair.
6 Friends: Tom Brady & Wes Welker
Tom Brady and Wes Welker are among the best quarterback-receiver combos in recent memory. During the receiver's five seasons with the New England Patriots, which included their explosive undefeated 2007, Welker was a favorite target for the G.O.A.T.-consideration quarterback. In Super Bowl XLII, despite the Giants upsetting the Patriots' 16-0 season, Welker set a Super Bowl record for most receptions in a single game.
Even now, after leaving the Patriots and retiring from football a few years later, Welker and Brady remain friends. While training during his Deflategate suspension, Brady called on Welker to come help him stay in shape during his four-game absence. The pair continue to maintain a close friendship, which began when they were setting the field aflame as teammates in New England.
5 Hated Each Other: Steve Smith & Ken Lucas
During his NFL career, Steve Smith Sr., who spent most of his tenure on the Carolina Panthers, earned five Pro Bowl selections, 14,731 receiving yards, and 81 touchdowns. He also happened to break more than one nose.
No, these breaks did not occur on the field during a pass rush altercation, but behind the scenes during heated words with teammates; one of whom was fellow Panther Ken Lucas. Although the two never quite specified what caused the argument, Lucas walked away from the altercation with a broken nose and a black eye.
As time went on, the two men made amends with one another, with Lucas praising Smith for owning up to his mistake and expressing remorse about his violent outburst. With other violent episodes against teammates in his past, Smith has expressed that his short fuse has caused him a great deal of guilt, which Lucas was able to empathize with and ultimately forgive him for.
4 Friends: Eli Manning & Michael Strahan
In 2014, Michael Strahan was inducted into the Pro Football Hall of Fame. The ceremony included a heartfelt video tribute featuring some kind words by Strahan's former quarterback, Eli Manning, with whom he earned a ring in Super Bowl XLII, the final game before Strahan's retirement. Strahan would go on to dedicate a section of his induction speech to Eli, praising his former teammate.
This was the culmination of a very positive relationship between the quarterback and defensive end, who were two of the Giants' most essential players during the early 2000s. As Eli himself advances toward the end of his career, talk of his eventual Hall of Fame induction has buzzed. If ever inducted, it's not unrealistic to imagine the franchise QB paying homage to his best teammates in his speech, which would be sure to feature his friend and teammate Strahan.
3 Hated Each Other: Richie Incognito & Jonathan Martin
The NFL and other sports leagues have often championed anti-bullying initiatives, due to the upsurge in awareness of how bullying can drastically affect children of all ages. However, the idea of an adult bullying another adult is not necessarily as popularly entertained, especially not between two rough and burly professional football players.
Nevertheless, Jonathan Martin has been very vocal about the bullying he received from his former Dolphins teammates, especially guard Richie Incognito. In 2012, Martin's rookie year in Miami, he was frequently the brunt of Incognito's verbal abuse and threats to sexually abuse Martin's sister.
Among other abuses—the list is too exhaustive and graphic to print in its entirety here—these experiences caused Martin to leave the NFL. Suffering from depression and severe anxiety for most his life, he now conducts lectures and seminars for schoolchildren about the long-term effects that bullying has on mental health. He has expressed zero interest in reconnecting with Incognito, who still plays for the Bills. He has, however, stated that he'd like to find a way back into playing football.
2 Friends: Mike Wallace & Keenan Lewis
These former Steelers teammates also shared the field together in high school, before Wallace went on to play at Ole Miss and Lewis at Oregon State. They were each drafted to Pittsburgh within a few picks of other in the 2009 draft's third round, and remained teammates there until 2013 when the Dolphins signed Wallace and the Saints took Lewis.
Loyal to their home city, Wallace and Lewis ran a youth football camp together for over 500 New Orleans children. The camp, which ran in the summer of 2014, was sponsored by Lewis's charitable foundation that helps promote youth athletics and wellness.
Wallace now plays with the Baltimore Ravens, and Lewis has been recovering from injury for several months. With Lewis's release from the Saints in 2016, and the Ravens in the market for a cornerback this offseason, could we soon see these two childhood friends as teammates once again?
1 Hated Each Other: Donovan McNabb & Terrell Owens
Terrell Owens is undoubtedly among the all-time greats of wide receivers, with over 15,000 receiving yards and 153 touchdowns in his Hall of Fame-caliber career. Donovan McNabb at quarterback was also nothing to sneeze at, so when the two ended up on the same team, the 2004 Philadelphia Eagles, hopes were high that they would make a great quarterback-receiver combination.
A great deal of personal animosity quickly built between T.O. and McNabb, which Owens credits to the QB's supposed jealousy of how the Philadelphia fans were quick to accept and cheer for the new receiver while showing disdain for their quarterback. Despite the Eagles taking a trip to Super Bowl XXXIX that year, they were dismantled by the Patriots in a game that saw McNabb throw three interceptions. Owens took no shame in voicing his intense displeasure at McNabb's performance and the overall state of the franchise, which eventually led to his suspension and subsequent dismissal from Philadelphia.
Even today, several years after both have retired, the feud surfaces every now and then, like when McNabb was charged with a DUI in 2015 and Owens, an advocate for safe driving, suggested McNabb should have called an Uber.
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