Bad news for Roger Goodell (left) as a judge overturned Tom Brady's four-game suspension for the Deflategate scandal. Brady's is just the latest in a long line of NFL scandals on and off the field -- and a growing number of defeats for Goodell.
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Aaron Hernandez murder trial
Former New England Patriots tight end Aaron Hernandez was convicted of first-degree murder on April 15, but his saga is not over. He has another pending case, in which the former New England Patriots star is accused of gunning down two people in 2012 at a South Boston stoplight, and this case is thought to be much stronger than the one that just concluded.
The Patriots were found guilty of illegally videotaping the New York Jets’ defensive signals during a 2007 game. Head coach Bill Belichick was fined $500,000, the franchise was fined $250,000 and it lost a 2008 first-round draft pick. The incident gave Belichick and the Pats a reputation for using shady tactics.
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Tom Brady's four-game suspension for his role in using underinflated footballs during the AFC championship game was overturned by a judge, which is a bad look for NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell. The four-time Super Bowl-winning quarterback was suspended by NFL executive Troy Vincent in May following the release of the Wells investigation report. The Patriots were fined $1 million and docked a pair of draft picks. The team didn't appeal its penalty, but Brady and his lawyers made their case during a 10-hour appeal hearing on June 23.
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Jonathan Martin left the Miami Dolphins midway through the 2013 season due to locker-room bullying from fellow offensive linemen led by Richie Incognito, who subsequently was suspended and not re-signed. Incognito has since signed with the Bills. The incident exposed a culture of locker-room behavior in the NFL that critics called unprofessional at best and abusive at worst.
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Jovan Belcher suicide
The Kansas City Chiefs linebacker rocked the sports world in December 2012 when he killed his girlfriend, then drove to the Chiefs training facility and shot himself. The incident sparked national debate about gun laws, and Belcher's family had his body exhumed to have his brain studied. In 2014, a report was released stating that Belcher had suffered from chronic traumatic encephalopathy, a degenerative disease that has been linked to head trauma and diagnosed in former NFL players.
New Orleans coaches and players were accused of offering bounties to knock opposing players out of games between 2009 and 2011. The scandal further damaged the league at a time when player safety already was being called into question. Among the punishments that resulted from a league investigation, Saints head coach Sean Payton and defensive coordinator Gregg Williams both were suspended for the entire 2012 season.
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Adrian Peterson scandal
The star running back was deactivated by the Minnesota Vikings for Week 2 of the 2014 season after being indicted on charges of reckless or negligent injury to a child, resulting from whipping his 4-year-old son with a switch. The team reactivated him, but just two days later he was placed on the NFL’s Exempt/Commissioner’s Permission list — effectively banned from football indefinitely. Two months later, after Peterson pleaded 'no contest' to a lesser misdemeanor charge of reckless assault, the NFL announced Peterson was suspended until April 16. Peterson has rejoined the team and restructed his deal for a reported $44 million.
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Ray Rice scandal
The Baltimore Ravens running back was suspended two games by the NFL in 2014 after he was arrested and charged with assaulting his then-fiancee; video showed him dragging her unconscious body out of a hotel elevator. When another video that showed Rice punching his now-wife was released, Rice was cut by the Ravens and the NFL suspended him indefinitely. The NFL investigation was botched so badly that commissioner Roger Goodell was shamed into a public apology and forced to overhaul the league's domestic violence policy. Rice is still looking for a second chance in the league.
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Ben Roethlisberger suspension
He was never charged with a crime, but Pittsburgh’s star quarterback was suspended for six games (reduced to four) in 2010 for violating the league’s personal-conduct policy. Roethlisberger was investigated after being accused of sexually assaulting a 20-year-old female — the second such accusation against him in a two-year period, which led to him being nicknamed 'Rapelisberger' by critics. Big Ben was one of the league's most high-profile QBs, coming off a second Super Bowl title, and the NFL was forced to address his pattern of troubling off-the-field behavior.
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Before former Pro Bowl safety Dave Duerson (pictured) killed himself with a gunshot to the chest in 2011, he texted his family asking them to have his brain studied for the effects of concussions and head trauma. Research revealed Duerson indeed had suffered from chronic traumatic encephalopathy, the degenerative disease that has been diagnosed in more and more former NFL players. The league had long maintained that it provided for former players and denied that it failed to protect their health. But following the suicide of former Chargers star Junior Seau in 2012 and the increasing number of lawsuits by former players, the NFL reached a $765 million concussion settlement in 2013. In 2014, a U.S. District judge refused the settlement on the grounds that it was inadequate.
Ray Lewis arrest
The Baltimore Ravens linebacker pleaded guilty to obstruction of justice in connection with the still-unsolved murder of two men who were stabbed to death during a fight involving Lewis and his friends in Atlanta after Super Bowl XXXIV in January 2000. Lewis was fined $250,000 by the NFL but never suspended. Critics still call Lewis a tainted legend; some call him worse.
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Michael Vick dog-fighting ring
The star quarterback of the Atlanta Falcons pleaded guilty to felony charges in 2007, after being exposed as the head of a dog-fighting ring based in his Virginia hometown, and served 21 months in prison. Vick returned to the NFL in 2009 amid much public outcry from animal rights activists.
Eddie DeBartolo Jr. banishment
A five-time Super Bowl winner as San Francisco 49ers owner, DeBartolo was suspended for the 1999 season after pleading guilty to a criminal charge connected to the corruption case against a former Louisiana governor. He relinquished control of the 49ers a year later.
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Stanley Wilson at Super Bowl XXIII
Cincinnati had a major role planned for Wilson against San Francisco but was forced to leave him off the roster when the running back suffered a drug relapse the night before the big game. The Bengals lost, 20-16, and Wilson was banned from the NFL for life as a three-time offender.
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Barrett Robbins at Super Bowl XXXVII
Robbins went AWOL the day before the Super Bowl, forcing the Raiders to replace their Pro Bowl center against Tampa Bay. Oakland lost, 48-21. Robbins, who reportedly had stopped taking his medication and gone partying in Tijuana, Mexico, was diagnosed with bipolar disorder. He played one more season before being cut for failing a PED test.
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Eugene Robinson at Super Bowl XXXIII
Just hours after receiving a national leadership award, Robinson was arrested for solicitation on the eve of the Super Bowl. Robinson started the game at safety but had a lousy performance in Atlanta’s 33-19 loss to Denver.
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Without fanfare in March 1984, Colts owner Robert Irsay moved his franchise to Indianapolis in the middle of the night after being unable to secure a stadium agreement. Baltimore didn’t land another NFL team for 12 seasons, until Art Modell took the Browns from Cleveland — another decision triggering anger from fans.
The Dallas Cowboys 'White House'
Several Cowboys players used a rented house for illicit acts during the team’s 1990s Super Bowl heyday. The excesses caught up with wide receiver Michael Irvin. He served a five-game suspension in 1996 following a no-contest plea to a drug charge.
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Josh Brent case
The Dallas Cowboys nose tackle was driving under the influence when he crashed his Mercedes in December 2012, killing teammate Jerry Brown. It wasn't the first case of DUI manslaughter to rock the league — see Leonard Little and Donte Stallworth — and the incident further damaged the NFL's reputation for being unable to control its players' behavior, as the league has been plagued by offseason arrests in recent years. Brent was sentenced to 180 days in jail and rejoined the Cowboys in 2014.
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Paul Hornung/Alex Karras gambling suspensions
Two of the NFL’s top players were suspended for the 1963 season after betting on NFL games and associating with gamblers. Both were reinstated the following season and continued their careers. Hornung was voted into the Pro Football Hall of Fame in 1986, while Karras had a film and TV career after football.
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The 'Love Boat'
A host of Minnesota players, including quarterback Daunte Culpepper, were onboard for what was essentially a sex cruise on Lake Minnetonka. The 2005 scandal was a major embarrassment for new Vikings owner Zigi Wilf, who fired head coach Mike Tice at season’s end.
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Plaxico Burress gun scandal
The New York Giants wide receiver accidentally shot himself inside a New York City nightclub, which led to him being charged with criminal possession of a handgun and a 20-month stint in prison. The 2008 Giants unraveled after the incident and lost in the second round of the playoffs without their star wide receiver, who was released before the 2009 season.
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Adam 'Pacman' Jones
From being involved in a strip-club shooting to other arrests, Jones became known as the NFL’s poster child for bad behavior when he was suspended for the 2007 season and most of 2008. Jones has since reinvented himself and made his first Pro Bowl this season in Cincinnati.