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Top 10 Dirtiest NFL Players

Updated on May 13, 2015

These guys had long successful careers, but along the way they built up reputations for their fowl and rule breaking play. Today I rank the top 10 dirtiest players in NFL history. I take into account fines, suspensions, and on field incidents.

10. Kevin Gogan

"Big Nasty" was as dirty as any player in his 14 year career.

Kevin Gogan was drafted in the eighth round in 1987 by Dallas. He proved to be a versatile offensive lineman playing right tackle and both guard spots. Together with Mark Tuinei, Nate Newton, Mark Stepnowski, and Erik Williams, Gogan helped form one of the greatest offensive lines in NFL history. He helped Emmiitt Smith lead the league in rushing three times between 1991-1993, and helped the Cowboys win two of their three Super Bowls in the 90's. Gogan went on to play for four other teams before retiring in 2000. In his 14 year career, he was a three time pro bowler, a 1998 All-Pro, and two time Super Bowl champion.

Throughout his career, Kevin Gogan had been called the league's dirtiest player. He has often said he had to play dirty to make up for his lack of elite talent. In the 1998 Pro Bowl, Broncos defensive end Neil Smith took offense at Gogan going for his legs during a running play. As Gogan returned to the huddle, Smith hit him on the back of the helmet, which resulted in a brawl and the first Pro Bowl ejections since the game was moved to Hawaii.

9. Rodney Harrison

At one point, he was the most fined player in league history.

Rodney Harrison was selected in the fifth round in 1994 by San Diego. In 1997, he became first player in NFL history to score touchdowns on an interception return, fumble return and kickoff return in same season. After being released by San Diego in 2003, he signed with New England the same year. He also became the first player to have 30 sacks and 30 interceptions in his career. He retired after the 2008 season as a two time pro bowler, four time All-Pro, the all time leader in sacks by a defensive back, four time AFC champion, and two time Super Bowl champion.

Harrison was voted the dirtiest player in the league three times by his NFL peers and coaches. He has also been fined and suspended multiple times. As of his retirement, had racked up over $200,000 in fines by the NFL. His most notable suspension occurred in 2002 after a helmet-to-helmet hit on Jerry Rice.

8. James Harrison

He is the most fined player in league history.

James Harrison was signed by Pittsburgh in 2002 after going undrafted. After being released by the team three times, he finally made the active roster in 2004. In 2007, he was named the starting outside linebacker and instantly made an impact. In 2008, he became the first undrafted player in history to win the defensive player of the year award and scored the longest play in Super Bowl history on 100 yard interception return. After a short stint with Cincinnati, Harrison retired but then resigned with Pittsburgh in 2014. In his 13 year career, he has been a five time pro bowler, four time All-Pro, the 2008 defensive player of the year, three time AFC champion, and two time Super Bowl champion.

Harrison has been fined numerous times in his career. In 2010 alone, he was fined an estimated $120,000 for incidents including late hits on Vince Young, Drew Brees, Jason Campbell, and Ryan Fitzpatrick throughout the year and knocking out both Mohammed Massaquoi and Josh Cribbs in the same game. Then there's him calling NFL commissioner Roger Goodell a "crook and a puppet" and saying that he hates Goddell and will never respect him.

7. Cortland Finnegan

He is one of the dirtiest cornerbacks in recent memory.

Cortland Finnegan was a seventh round pick in 2006 by Tennessee. As a rookie, he played in every game as the team's nickel corner. After being named the starter in 2008, Finnegan became a force in the secondary intercepting five passes and a touchdown. After stints in St. Louis and Miami, Finnegan retired in 2015. In his nine seasons, he was a 2008 pro bowler and All-Pro, recorded 18 career interceptions, and four defensive touchdowns.

Finnegan's aggressive play has built him a negative reputation. In 2010, he was involved in many on field incidents. In September, he was fined for throwing Giants wide receiver Steve Smith to the ground by his helmet. In October, Finnegan was fined for unnecessary roughness after hitting Denver Broncos guard Chris Kuper after Kuper's helmet was off. After this incident, the NFL warned him that similar infractions in the future would lead to increased discipline. In November, Finnegan was involved in a helmet-throwing fist fight with Texans wide receiver Andre Johnson. Both players were ejected and fined because of the incident. In all, Finnegan was fined $40,000 during the 2010 season.

6. Albert Haynesworth

He is remembered as both a dirty player and the biggest free agent bust in history.

Albert Haynesworth was a first round pick in 2002 by Tennessee. In seven seasons in Tennessee, he established himself as a dominant run stopping defensive tackle with anger issues. He was a two time pro bowler and All-Pro during his final years in Tennessee. Haynesworth signed a record seven year, $100 million contract with Washington in 2009. In two seasons in Washington, he recorded only 6.5 sacks. He spent his final season in New England and Tampa Bay.

Haynesworth was seemingly trouble from the start. During training camp in 2003, he kicked his former teammate Justin Hartwig in the chest and had to be restrained by other teammates. In a 2006 game against Dallas, Cowboys center Andre Gurode fell to the ground, and his helmet was removed by Haynesworth. Haynesworth tried to stomp on Gurode's head, but missed. A second stomp opened a severe wound on Gurode's forehead narrowly missing his right eye. The referee assessed Haynesworth with a 15-yard unsportsmanlike conduct penalty, to which he protested by taking off his helmet and throwing it into the turf. Haynesworth was then assessed an additional 15-yard penalty and was ejected from the game.

5. George Atkinson

He is known for two brutal hits on the same player.

George Atkinson was a second round pick in 1968 by Oakland. As a rookie, he set the Raiders' single-game record for punt return yardage. He ranks fifth on the Raiders all time interception list. After a short stint with Denver, Atkinson retired after the 1979 season. In his 12 year career, he recorded 30 interceptions, scored two touchdowns, was a two time AFL All Star, and Super Bowl champion.

Atkinson's reputation as a dirty player all stems from Lynn Swann. In a 1976 game against Pittsburgh, he hit an unsuspecting Swann in the back of the head with a forearm smash, even though the ball had not been thrown to him. The hit rendered Swann unconscious with a concussion. Atkinson had also hit Swann in a similar manner in the previous season's AFC Championship game, which also gave Swann a concussion. After the second incident, Steeler's head coach Chuck Noll referred to Atkinson as part of the "criminal element" in football. Atkinson subsequently sued Noll and the Steelers for slander. Atkinson lost the lawsuit, but Noll was forced to admit that his Pittsburgh defense played dirty in a similar fashion as the Raiders.

4. Richie Incognito

He brought the bullying problem to the lights of professional football.

Richie Incognito was a third round pick in 2005 by St. Louis. In 2006, he blocked for an offense which produced a 4,000 yard passer, a 1,500 yard rusher, and two 1,000 yard receivers, one of only four offenses in NFL history to accomplish that. In 2012 with Miami, he started all 16 games and was named to his first pro bowl.

Incognito's career has been surrounded in on and off field incidents. He has garnered attention over the years for perceived dirty play amongst NFL players, coaches, and fans. He has been alleged to have gouged players' eyes, punched players, and made illegal tackles on a regular basis. In 2008, he was fined three times for a total of $35,000 after a game against Washington. His violations during the game included the repeated verbal abuse of a game official, performing a "major face mask" penalty, and performing a chop block penalty. In 2009, he was fined $50,000, was named the dirtiest player in the league, and in four years with the Rams, Incognito drew 38 penalties, including seven unnecessary roughness calls, more than any other player during that span. Then there's the bullying scandal. In 2013, the Dolphins suspended Incognito for misconduct related to the treatment of teammate Jonathan Martin, who left the team a week earlier because he was tired of being harassed.

3. Conrad Dobler

He was one of the original nasty players.

Conrad Doubled was a fifth round pick in 1972 by the Cardinals. He played right guard during his six years with the Cardinals next to Hall of Famer Dan Dierdorf at right tackle. In those years, the Cardinals had solid pass protecting offensive lines. In 1975, the offensive line allowed just a then record eight sacks. Dobler spent his final years in New Orleans and Buffalo before retiring after the 1981 season. During his 10 year career, he was three time pro bowler.

Dobler quickly developed a reputation as a nasty player, and he did little to tone down that image. He even went as far to revel in the image as much as possible. He is best known for such actions as punching Mean Joe Greene, spitting on a downed and injured Bill Bergey, and kicking Merlin Olsen in the head.

2. Bill Romanowski

He was as dirty as any defender in the 90's.

Bill Romanowski was third round pick in 1988 by San Francisco. He played 243 consecutive games, a then NFL record among linebackers. He compiled 1,105 tackles, 39.5 sacks, 18 forced fumbles, and 18 interceptions. In his 16 year career, he played for four teams, was two time pro bowler, five time conference champion, and four time Super Bowl champion.

Romanowski has been involved in numerous altercations with both teammates and opponents. In 1995, while with the Eagles, he was ejected from a game for kicking Arizona Cardinals fullback Larry Centers in the head and was fined $4,500. Two more incidents occurred during the 1997 season while he played for the Broncos. In the first, he was fined $20,000 after a helmet-to-helmet hit on Carolina Panthers quarterback Kerry Collins in a preseason game resulting in Collins sustaining a broken jaw. The second occurred Monday Night Football when Romanowski spit in the face of 49ers wide receiver J. J. Stokes. In 1999, he was fined a total of $42,500 for three illegal hits plus a punch thrown at Kansas City Chiefs tight end Tony González. In his final season, Romanowski attacked and injured one of his teammates during a scrimmage. Marcus Williams was forced to retire after Romanowski confronted Williams after a play, ripped off his helmet, and crushed his eye socket with a punch.

1. Ndamukong Suh

No other player today has been surrounded in such on the field controversy.

Ndamukong Suh was a first round pick in 2010 by Detroit. In his five years with the Lions, he established himself as one of the best pass rushing defensive tackles in the league. As a rookie, he recorded 10 sacks was named the defensive rookie of the year. In his five NFL seasons, Suh has been a four time All-Pro and pro bowler.

Suh has been criticized in the media by other players and by the NFL for his aggressive style of play and has been fined a total of $216,875 by the league for four violations in the first four years in his career. In his first two seasons, he was flagged for nine personal fouls and was voted the least liked player in the league. Over the years, Suh has been involved in many on field incidents. In 2011on Thanksgiving, he pushed Packers' offensive lineman Evan Dietrich-Smith's head into the ground three times, then stomped on his arm. All of this took place after the whistle was blown ans Suh was penalized for unnecessary roughness, then ejected from the game. The next year on Thanksgiving, he was fined $30,000 for kicking Texans quarterback Matt Schaub in the groin. Sub has a long list of other offenses that I could write all day about, but frankly my fingers are hurting and should probably stop before they fall off.

People's Poll

Who is the dirtiest player in NFL history?

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    • profile image

      Kevin Goodwin 

      3 years ago

      The things Suh has done in the past are horrible. What will he do now in Miami who has had locker room issues already.

    • Larry Rankin profile image

      Larry Rankin 

      3 years ago from Oklahoma

      Dobler always ranks highly on these lists.

      Very entertaining.


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