The game of football is not designed for gentle souls. Off the field, maybe, but between the lines, controlled aggression is key. A serving of arrogance and feistiness helps, but some players go beyond the bounds of acceptable conduct even for a game premised on physically beating people. Some of these players are less combustible than others but make up for it in sheer nastiness and a willingness to injure an opponent. ‘Tis the season for training camp fights, so here we go. (Note that these players were selected for an 11 personnel grouping. Stay tuned for the defense edition.)
Getty ImagesRonald Martinez
Jeff George -- Quarterback
The No. 1 overall pick in the 1990 NFL Draft by the Indianapolis Colts, George had a cannon for an arm and a first-round temper. After four tumultuous seasons, the Colts traded George to Atlanta in 1994 -- a relationship that blew up in September 1996 when George got into a heated sideline argument with head coach June Jones that resulted in a suspension for "conduct detrimental to the team." The suspension lasted until his release in mid-October. In 1997, George signed a five-year deal with the Oakland Raiders. Sports Illustrated’s Michael Silver wrote of George in July of that year: “He is considered by many to be the poster boy of problem children, the NFL's answer to Dennis Rodman and Albert Belle.” That’s some pretty fine company in terms of talent and volatility. After George returned to Atlanta in September 1997 in a 36-31 Raiders victory, the supposedly new and matured George celebrated by running around the entire field taunting the crowd.
Sporting News via Getty ImagesThe Sporting News
Ricky Watters -- Running back
With a different reputation, Watters might be in the Hall of Fame. However the quick-tempered rusher irked some teammates and gained a reputation as a player concerned first and foremost with Ricky Watters. Describing his own brash attitude during his playing days, Watters said in 2012: “It’s really crazy for me to even try to explain it because I am so different than that now, but at that time when somebody was to come at, or say anything that I felt was threatening to me, my way was to lash back, and that was I how I lashed back and it was wrong.” The most well-known lowlight for the former 49ers, Eagles and Seahawks RB is probably the "For Who, For What?" incident -- referring to Watters’ explanation for why he short-armed a would-be reception to avoid getting whacked in his first Eagles game in September 1995.
Andre Rison -- Wide receiver
The 5-time Pro Bowler was wildly talented but trouble and a bad reputation followed Andre “Bad Moon” Rison throughout his career. When Rison got to Kansas City in 1997, his fifth team in four seasons, he wanted to shed the negative image so he tried to adopt a Marvel character’s likeness: Spider-Man. ''I like the Spider-Man image,'' said former Jaguars teammate Keenan McCardell. ''He's the avenger of all bad things. That's what Andre wants, because he wants to get rid of that Bad Moon image.'' Rison once famously brawled with Deion Sanders and although it’s marginally relevant here, he’s widely remembered for the 1994 incident in which his former girlfriend Lisa “Left Eye” Lopes started a fire in a bathtub at his Atlanta mansion, which spun out of control and gutted the place.
Getty ImagesGeorge Gojkovich
Terrell Owens -- Wide receiver
In a 1999 Wild Card game against the Packers, then-49ers wideout Terrell Owens scored a fantastic game-winning touchdown pass in traffic, and then morphed into T.O., the brilliant receiver and notorious locker room cancer. In 2000, T.O. celebrated on the Dallas Cowboys star and then tried again but got clobbered by Cowboys safety George Teague. In 2005 in Philadelphia, Owens got into a fistfight with teammate Hugh Douglas and ripped the team/organization, prompting a suspension, and then he gave the surreal “no comment”-laden press conference while working out in his driveway. The receiver-entertainer threw sideline tantrums at every stop and repeatedly beefed with his quarterbacks, even if he tearfully defended one of them (Tony Romo). When no NFL team would give him a shot in 2012, he moved to the IFL's Allen Wranglers, which cut him for a “lack of effort both on and off the field.”
Steve Smith Sr. -- Wide receiver
The 5-foot-9 wideout gets nod over his junior-college teammate Chad Ochocinco for his penchant for fighting and shouting or feuding with opponents. In 2002, the longtime Panther punched a teammate (Anthony Bright) and broke his nose during a film session. In 2008 he broke teammate Ken Lucas’ nose during a training camp dustup, resulting in a two-game suspension. Also known as “Mighty Mouse,” Smith is one of the game’s most skilled and frequent trash-talkers (“ice up, son!”) who will take aim at any opponent or Twitter troll. Most of the time the cavernous chip on his shoulder has productively fueled Smith’s fire but he’s picked up a number of unnecessary roughness penalties and at times become a distraction.
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Jeremy Shockey -- Tight end
In the summer of his rookie season, the Miami Hurricanes product resisted New York Giants veterans’ attempt to get him to sing during a dinner at training camp, and ended up briefly fighting with linebacker Brandon Short. Throughout his career, the temperamental tight end didn’t get along well with many teammates, particularly former Giants wideout Amani Toomer, who wrote on Twitter of Shockey in 2012: “Bad teammate, worse person.” On the field, Shockey often had outbursts that resulted in costly penalties for taunting and tripping.
Getty ImagesNick Laham
Kyle Turley -- Left tackle
Football is an emotional game but emotion sometimes got the best of Turley -- and got him sent to anger management. The most well-known incident occurred in 2001 at the end of a Saints-Jets game when, in defense of quarterback Aaron Brooks, who had his head yanked, Turley ripped the helmet off of Jets safety Damien Robinson, ran from the pile with it and flung it into the air. And then he made an “obscene gesture.” Turley now plays country music and wrote an album titled “Anger Management” that includes the track "Flyin’ Helmets” about the incident and his playing days. (Turley mostly played right tackle during his NFL career but we need him on the blind side.)
Richie Incognito -- Left guard
The main perpetrator of the 2013 Miami Dolphins bullying scandal was also ranked the second-dirtiest player in the league in 2012, according to the Sporting News. He began to earn that reputation with the Rams in St. Louis. "I realized that my actions in St. Louis were hurting the team, and ultimately hurting myself," Incognito said. The guard wore the “dirty player” label as a badge of honor but then his career blew up in Miami over the bullying revelations. He’s made the most of a second chance in Buffalo and earned a Pro Bowl nod in 2015, but it’s probably still wise to avoid him in the bottom of an on-field scrum.
Getty ImagesTom Szczerbowski
Dominic Raiola -- Center
The longtime Lions center (2001-2014) was involved in a variety of regrettable incidents. During the Lions’ miserable 2008 campaign, Raiola flipped off the home crowd after it booed the team. In 2013, he harassed and taunted the the University of Wisconsin marching band at Lambeau Field. In November 2014, he got fined for punching Patriots defensive lineman Zach Moore and then in December he stepped on Bears lineman Ego Ferguson’s ankle. That one resulted in a one-game suspension for his "sixth safety-related rules violation since 2010,” per NFL vice president of football operations Merton Hanks.
Getty ImagesJordan Mansfield
Conrad Dobler -- Right guard
“If I’m dirty, so be it, if I’m mean, so be it too,” Dobler, a rugged-looking Burt Reynolds once said. Dobler most certainly was both. He tried to hurt people, partly for sport, partly to help his team win and keep a roster spot. It should come as no surprise that Dobler made the cover of Sports Illustrated in 1977 as Pro Football’s Dirtiest Player. “Some men get vasectomies; I used to give them” Dobler said another time. Which is terrifying to think about.
Steve Wisniewski -- Right tackle
The 8-time Pro Bowler was actually a right guard but played part of his career at 6-foot-4, 305 pounds, so we’re flexing him out to right tackle. Former Vikings long snapper Mike Morris told Sports Illustrated in 1997: “Wiz is a dirty bastard. He chops from behind. He’ll shoot knees … this mother***** had me cursing and swearing on TV.” Said linebacker Bill Romanowski: “[Wisniewski] is a guy that reeled me in to God, but out on the field he wanted to kill you … You couldn’t stand around a pile without getting your head taken off.” Perfect.