Football is a game of physicality, and I dare say, violence. As much as we love it, it is something of a gladiator's arena, with injury and often life-changing ailments as residual after effects. Given that it is a game which filters for the toughest, hardest-hitting players, there is something of an inevitability to the game attracting players with a penchant for violence and physical abuse.
Everyone wants to wag a finger at these players; but truthfully our telling them to keep it clean is something of a hypocritical art. Can we say there is a 'right' amount of violence? After all, we love players that win us games--and if a defensive back launches helmet to helmet on the opposing team's best receiver and takes him out of the game with a concussion, that could win a team the game. There's a reason those players are on rosters across the league.
Now, to be clear, I am not condoning any such intentional violence. I'm merely playing devil's advocate; these players have to survive the trials and tribulations of intense competition to get these roster spots, and some of them know the only reason they did was because of their tone-setting, violent play. However there are a number of players on this list who engage in extracurricular violence after the whistle blows. There's no place for that in the NFL either, it's simply unprofessional and rage-driven. But again, this game is often fueled by hatred of your enemies. The line we ask these players to walk is certainly thin.
I wish there were no players to put on this list; I wish the NFL wasn't marred the by controversy of conflicting rules and practices, and billion dollar concussion lawsuits. But it is, and hereafter sit 10 of the more recent unsportsmanlike players to inhabit the game.
10 Michael Griffin - S - Tennessee Titans
9 Steve Smith - WR - Baltimore Ravens
8 Cortland Finnegan - CB - Miami Dolphins
7 Brandon Meriweather - S - Washington Redskins
6 Bernard Pollard - S - Tennessee Titans
5 Albert Haynesworth - DT - (Inactive Since 2012)
4 James Harrison - LB - Free Agent
3 Dashon Goldson - S - Tampa Bay Buccanneers
2 Richie Incognito - G - Free Agent
1 Ndamukong Suh - DT - Detroit Lions
Here's a name just about everyone expects to be on this list. And, well, for good reason. There is a veritable laundry list of awful looking dirty or unsportsmanlike hits Ndamukong Suh has delivered already in his short career. In a game against the Bengals Suh grabbed Andy Dalton by the head, twisted it around until the helmet came off, then while still keeping Dalton in a headlock, drove him into the ground. It looks positively WWE-style on replay. Another such hit he delivered to the back of Jay Cutler's head. As Cutler scrambled for yardage, Suh came up behind him, and rather than shoving him in the back or grabbing him, gave him a double forearm shiv to the back of Cutlers' helmet, rocketing him headfirst into the ground. It's pretty ugly to watch even in slow motion. He would later again rock Cutler in what can only be described as a full-weight body slam, as Suh purposefully cut Cutlers legs out from breaking his fall.
Suh's first dirty play was in a preseason game, against a QB no one cared about, so it went a bit unnoticed-- he manages to facemask Jake Delhomme, then wrench him to his knees by his helmet, then whip him head first into the ground with all his strength. It's so ugly it's a miracle Delhomme still has a spine. And then, of course, there's the kick-in-the-balls he delivered to Matt Schaub and the famous headsmash-to-stomp of Evan Dietrich-Smith. When I say I could've made a list simply of Suh's dirty plays, I'm not kidding. There's a treasure trove of disturbing violence to sift through. Seriously, someone get the damn kid some therapy.
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