Who are the dirtiest players in NFL history? Some are pretty obvious, others not so much. Most on the list are recent because the rules pre-1980 were much more lenient on dirty play, and the league used to promote the violence before they became woke, which means before they got sued for concussion-related activities.
Merriman successfully advocated for a rule change which stated any player testing positive for steroids could not be selected for the Pro Bowl or awarded performance-related accolades in their year of test positivity. When you have such an impactful rule named in your honor due to dirty activities like this one, then you belong on this list.
Porter gained notoriety when he ran past Browns punter Chris Gardocki and tackled him, leaving Gardocki motionless before awakening and flipping off Steelers coach Bill Cowher. Porter later moved on to Arizona Cardinals before being named second-dirtiest player in the NFL by peers in 2009.
Haynesworth was known to play dirty. In 2006, Haynesworth unceremoniously took action against Dallas Cowboys offensive lineman Andre Gurode of opposing team Dallas Cowboys by taking off his helmet and stamping hard on his head; Gurode received 30 stitches for his wound; afterward he experienced blurred vision and pain that still persists today. Haynesworth received an unprecedented five-game suspension, making this incident one of the longest NFL history related to an in-game incident.
Lewis earned a reputation for dirty hits during his illustrious playing career. This was highlighted by two $25,000 fines in 2010. Thirty-five at the time, Lewis continued making hits that garnered league officials’ notice and caused two fines even in his waning years as a player.
Williams was an outstanding safety in his own right, yet became notorious for injuring players with the now-prohibited horse collar tackle throughout his career. Most famously, this technique caused Terrell Owens of the Philadelphia Eagles to suffer a broken leg.
Williams injured three players using horse collar tackles during the 2004 NFL season alone and as a result was fined by the league, earning him a place on this list.
In 2008, he was fined $35,000 for three offenses against the Redskins: personal foul, chop block and major facemask in one game – all incurred during one matchup against them. He has an unfortunate habit of incurring two or more personal fouls per game!
His 2014 taunting of former teammate Jonathan Martin reportedly led him to consider suicide due to Incognito’s racist taunting, for which he was suspended for the remainder of that season – truly disgusting behavior!
Harrison quickly gained a reputation for his punishing head-to-head hits. Voted the dirtiest player by both peers and coaches in 2004 and 2006, and coaches selected Harrison again as a Dirtiest Player Award recipient in 2008. Furthermore, in 2002 he was suspended due to an illegal hit on Jerry Rice; ultimately, fines totalling more than $200,000 were levied against his career for illegal hits.
Longtime veteran Hines Ward often used an illegal blindside block, leading to several injuries.
Keith Rivers missed most of 2008 due to Ward’s jaw-breaking blindside block on him; as a result, the “Hines Ward Rule” made it illegal for players using helmets, forearms or shoulders to hit unknowing defenders in the head or neck area.
Finnegan was renowned for engaging in verbal confrontation and physically attacking opponents he perceived would impede their performance, often leading to on-field fights – the most notable one with former Houston Texan Andre Johnson.
Tatum was another key member of the Oakland Raiders known for their headhunting style of play and earned himself the moniker “The Assassin.” Due to his knack for dropping the boom with helmet-to-helmet hits, his name stuck. Although only 5’10”, 200 pounds was nothing close to big for NFL standards back then.
So he made up for it with his hitting style, becoming one of the hardest hitters in NFL history. This earned him three Pro Bowl selections and even won him one Super Bowl ring with Oakland – however he is most known for hitting former Patriots wide receiver Darryl Stingley which left him paralyzed from chest down.
Suh is one of the premier defensive tackles in the league, earning himself one of the highest salaries over time. But that hasn’t stopped him from stomping on opponents after the whistle is blown and initiating multiple fights on the field – all without reason or justification from such a star player!
Dobler was accused of biting one opponent, although this wasn’t confirmed until later in his career. While Dobler claims his reputation as a dirty player is at least partly unwarranted, failing to deny attempts at injuring players only compounded their image; punching and even kicking his opponents during games weren’t uncommon either.
He became well-known as one of the premier cheap shotters in the league, leading to numerous fines and penalties over his career.
Burfict epitomizes filth. A standout at Arizona State, Burfict was overlooked for the draft due to his outgoing personality and off-the-handle behavior. Instead, he joined up with the Cincinnati Bengals where he quickly established himself as one of the dirtiest players in the league.
Romanowski was a formidable force who played linebacker with intensity. But sometimes that went too far; he became notorious for taking cheap shots and late hits against opponents.
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