26 Most Notorious Lawbreakers In NFL History

Mike - July 3, 2019

26 Most Notorious Lawbreakers In NFL History

Mike - July 3, 2019

The National Football League (NFL) features a violent mix of hard-hitting, fast-paced action for sports fans. It’s the biggest reason so many people find it exciting. It’s also propelled the league to the status of the most popular sport in the United States.

However, sometimes NFL players extend that violence outside the game and into real life, and the consequences are often quite disgusting. It’s a dark side of the NFL that is nevertheless often at the forefront of news headlines centered on the game.

We broke down the most notorious criminals in NBA history recently. Now, check out the 26 most notorious criminals in NFL history right here:

26. Ray Rice, Baltimore Ravens:

The Super Bowl-winning Rice found himself in a heap of off-the-field trouble when he and his then-girlfriend Janay Palmer were both arrested for assault in early 2014 in Atlantic City, New Jersey. Video showed Rice dragging a knocked out Palmer out of a hotel elevator. TMZ later released video of Rice knocking Palmer out in the elevator.

Rice was indicted for third-degree aggravated assault. They were married a month-and-a-half later. The charges were dropped when Rice agreed to counseling. The NFL suspended Rice for two games initially and was then caught with their pants down when the real video inside the elevator surfaced. His brutal KO shot on his current wife was a huge story for quite a while, yet Rice can only kick off this list because he was not technically convicted of his crime despite how vicious video showed it truly was.

25. Ryan Leaf, San Diego Chargers:

Leaf is a rare breed of player. He’s largely known for being the clear-cut top choice on the list of biggest NFL draft busts of all-time. But his post-football life after failing as the San Diego Chargers’ starting quarterback was much worse.

Leaf was hired as a volunteer quarterbacks coach at West Texas A&M in 2006. Two years later he was put on indefinite leave and then resigned the next day for supposedly asking one of his players for a painkiller to help him deal with a prior injury from his career. Leaf’s opioid use began in 2002. He acquired Vicodin at a boxing match, which “started about an eight-year run of off-and-on opioid abuse that took my life to the very bottom.” Indeed it did.

Leaf was arrested on burglary and controlled substance charges in Texas in 2009. In 2012, he was caught again on theft, burglary, and drug charges in his Montana hometown. He was sentenced to seven years in Montana prison and eventually released in December 2014. He has been sober for six years and now serves as a Program Ambassador for Transcend Recovery Community, but he’s still one of the most notorious criminals in football history.

24. Lawrence Taylor, New York Giants:

Taylor was known as one of the most heavy-hitting, dangerous linebackers to ever play in the NFL. He may be the best linebacker ever. Unfortunately, his off-the-field life was just as violent, however, due to his continued use of cocaine and crack cocaine.

He had a long list of off-field trouble, but his most worrisome came in 2010 after he had retired. There, Taylor was arrested for having sex with a 16-year-old girl at a New York hotel. “LT” was hit with felony statutory rape and third-degree patronization for allegedly paying the girl to engage in sexual intercourse with him. Taylor pleaded guilty and entered into a plea deal. He was handed six years’ probation after pleading guilty to two misdemeanors and had to register as a sex offender.

23. Leonard Little, St. Louis Rams:

Little was a dangerous pass rusher on the field, yet Little’s off-the-field crimes far overshadowed any sacks he made on it. In 1998, Little got off easy when he killed a woman in a car accident while allegedly drunk.

But he didn’t take the incident seriously, apparently, as he was arrested for driving while intoxicated again six years later. While he got off with just probation, Little’s continued behavior was extremely concerning.

22. Adam “Pacman” Jones, Cincinnati Bengals, Tennessee Titans, Dallas Cowboys:

The infamous Jones came into the league with legal baggage from a fight in West Virginia. In 2005, he got in even more trouble when he was tabbed on assault and vandalism charges at a nightclub in Nashville after the Titans drafted him.

But it was his arrest at Las Vegas strip club Minxx at the 2007 NBA All-Star game that truly found him in real trouble.

There, he, rapper Nelly, and their entourage ‘made it rain’ with $81,000 in one-dollar bills. When a stripper was instructed to collect them, Jones became enraged and allegedly slammed the dancer’s head on the stage. A member of Jones’ group then fired a gun into the crowd, hitting three people, one of whom was a security guard. Jones was arrested and pleaded no contest to one charge of conspiracy to commit disorderly conduct. He was handed a one-year suspended prison sentence, probation, and community service. The NFL suspended ‘Pacman’ for the entire 2007 season, but it was later reduced. He was also ordered to pay $12.6 million to victims in the shooting in 2012, which he later appealed.

Jones was involved in many, many other off-the-field incidents throughout his career, but the strip club shooting was the worst and most prominent. He retired from football in May 2019.

21. Robert Rozier, St. Louis Cardinals:

Rozier wasn’t remotely close to the level of star most others were on this list. But his crime(s) were heavily publicized nonetheless. After his NFL career was over, he joined black supremacist cult ‘The Brotherhood.’ As part of their initiation, prospective members had to murder a “white devil” and bring a body part to prove it.

Rozier later confessed to killing not one but seven people in this manner. He only served 10 years in prison when he agreed to testify against the cult. However, he was put in the slammer for 25 years on charges of check fraud after violating the no-tolerance policy of his release.

20. Cecil Collins, Miami Dolphins:

Collins’ NFL career was merely a blip on the radar due to his controversial arrest and subsequent suspension that resulted in his release. He showed promise after the Miami Dolphins drafted him in the fifth round of the 1999 NFL draft even though he had been kicked off both the LSU and McNeese State teams in college.

However, in December 1999, Collins was booked on burglary when he broke into a woman’s home in apartment complex Palm Trace Landings in Davie, Florida. The woman was married and Collins knew her from the gym. He admitted he broke into her dwelling to ‘watch her sleep.’ He was sentenced to 15 years in prison, suspended by the NFL, and released by the Miami Dolphins. Collins got out of jail in 2013.

19. Nate Newton, Dallas Cowboys & Carolina Panthers:

The monstrous, road-grating Newton made six Pro Bowls as a member of the famed Dallas Cowboys’ offensive line of the 1990s. Only one other player has made more Pro Bowls as a member of the Cowboys’ offensive line.

However, he sullied that good reputation by getting busted with a massive 213 pounds of marijuana in November 2001. In December 2001 – a month later – he was then busted with 175 pounds of grass. He was sentenced to a mere 30 months in prison. Newton has reportedly turned his life around and speaks to children as a member of the North Dallas Community of God.

18. Darryl Henley, St. Louis Rams:

Henley got into hot water with law enforcement when he was busted for trafficking cocaine; not exactly work an NFL football player needed. But he didn’t stop there.

He allegedly hired criminals to murder the judge that was presiding over his case. This made things quite a bit worse and he received 41 years in prison for his ridiculous attempts to break the law.

17. Donte Stallworth, New Orleans Saints & Five Other Teams:

Speedster Stallworth was arrested on DUI Manslaughter in 2009. He struck 59-year-old Marlo Reyes in Miami Beach, Florida, killing the man. Reyes was attempting to catch a bus after his work shift had ended. Stallworth was speeding at the time of the incident.

The former football star also had a blood alcohol level of .12, over the legal limit of .08. He reached a plea deal in court and was dealt a sentence of 30 days in jail, 1,000 hours of community service, two years of community control, and eight years’ probation. Stallworth also reached an out-of-court settlement with Reyes’ family. The State of Florida permanently suspended his driver’s license as well.

His trouble didn’t end there, as Roger Goodell suspended him for the 2009 season. Stallworth’s attorneys felt he could have fought and even had a great shot at getting off the charges. But he chose to plead guilty to a felony because he felt that was the right thing to do morally.

16. Darren Sharper, New Orleans Saints, Green Bay Packers & Minnesota Vikings:

Sharper had a successful 14-year career and became a football analyst for the NFL Network in 2014. But it soon came out that Sharper had allegedly raped multiple women after drugging them.

The list of women he had sexually assaulted was disgusting. Several women filed several criminal complaints against him. He was charged with sexual assault in California, Arizona, Nevada, and Louisiana. Sharper was sentenced to 20 years in prison by the States of California and Arizona, three to eight years by Nevada, 18 years and 4 months and 3 years of supervised release, and a $20,000 fine by a federal judge in Louisiana, and 20 years by the State of Louisiana. The sentences are currently being served concordantly.

Two of his accomplices, former sheriff Brandon Licciardi and a New Orleans man named Erik Nunez, were both given lengthy prison sentences also. Sharper raped nine women according to court records but allegedly attacked up to 16 women sexually.

15. Erik Naposki, New England Patriots & Indianapolis Colts:

Linebacker Naposki played two seasons with the Patriots and one with the Colts. But it was his heinous crime he’s remembered for most, unfortunately.

His arrest came long after the alleged crime. On May 21, 2009, Naposki was arrested in Connecticut for a murder dating back to December 1994 in Newport Beach, CA. He was arrested for murder of a man named Bill McLaughlin. The murder was the center of a plot so a woman named Nanette Johnston, McLaughlin’s girlfriend, could disgustingly cash in on his life insurance policy. Naposki was romantically linked to Johnston.

Naposki was convicted of the murder in July 2011 and sentenced to life in prison in August 2012.

14. Jim Dunaway, Buffalo Bills:

Dunaway was a successful NFL defensive tackle more known for the alleged murder of his ex-wife, Nonniel Dunaway. She was found dead in a half-empty swimming pool with a fractured skull. The autopsy revealed she had been knocked out and placed in the pool where she drowned. She had previously won a divorce judgment granting her land, alimony, and even half of Dunaway’s NFL pension.

The former NFL star was charged with murder. However, a grand jury chose not to indict him on the disgusting allegations. But all was not done. His children chose to file a wrongful death lawsuit against their father alleging that Dunaway killed their mother. He was eventually found liable and paid his children the sum of $579,000.

13. Dave Meggett, New York Giants & Two Other Teams:

He was an electric return man for the New York Giants in his heyday, but unfortunately Dave Meggett was also a convicted assaulter, robber, and rapist. He got into several instances of trouble with prostitutes. He was also essentially broke from failing to pay his child support.

But things got much worse. Meggett was accused of raping his then-girlfriend in 2006. He was then accused of sexually assaulting a 17-year-old girl. Finally, in 2009 he was arrested for raping a female student at the College of Charleston. He was sentenced to 30 years in prison. The earliest date he can be released is July 6, 2034.

12. Mychal Kendricks, Philadelphia Eagles, Cleveland Browns & Seattle Seahawks:

Kendricks was a pivotal part of Philly’s unreal Super Bowl run in 2017. He then signed a one-year free-agent deal with the Cleveland Browns in June 2018. However, it didn’t last long as he was indicted by federal prosecutors for insider trading. Kendricks allegedly made $1.2 million in investments by using illegal advice from advisor Damilare Sonoiki, who he gave Eagles tickets to. Cleveland released him in August.

He was picked up quickly by Seattle and opened the season with the Seahawks. Kendricks was suspended by the NFL for eight games and returned in December 2018. He broke his leg to finish the year but was resigned for one year. He still faces up to 25 years for the crime but will reportedly receive 30-37 months. Kendricks’ sentencing was indefinitely postponed in April 2019.

11. Jim Brown, Cleveland Browns:

Jim Brown is a Cleveland Browns legend and one of the best running backs to ever play. He’s also a notorious woman beater.

He was arrested for assault and battery against then-18-year-old Brenda Ayres in 1965. Brown was arrested for assault with intent to commit murder when a model named Eva Bohn-Chin was found beneath his apartment balcony. Brown was also charged for raping a woman in 1985. He was arrested for assaulting girlfriend Debra Clark the following year in 1986. Finally, he was arrested for threatening his wife in 1999 and then for vandalism after he allegedly hit his wife’s car with a shovel later in 1999. The courts sentenced him to probation, counseling, and community service. When he violated the terms of the sentence, he was sentenced to six months in jail. He served three months and was released.

10. Alonzo Spellman, Chicago Bears, Dallas Cowboys & Detroit Lions:

Monster defensive end Spellman had been diagnosed with bipolar disorder but refused to take medication and coped with the symptoms by using illegal drugs and alcohol.

His real trouble with the law came after his career was over. He created a manic scene on a plane in 2002 when he said the flight was headed to crash. Spellman then threatened fellow passengers and the crew of the plane. The incident was so bad that he forced an emergency landing. Spellman was released to his brother’s custody but damaged property at his house. He was committed to a mental hospital. Police later arrested him for the scene and he spent 18 months in prison.

Spellman was arrested again on 10 counts of eluding police in a 2008 car chase. Spellman was arrested yet again for multiple warrants and in 2015.

Photo by Stephen Dunn/Getty Images

9. Barret Robbins, Oakland Raiders:

Robbins suffers from bipolar depression and went missing the day before the Oakland Raiders’ appearance in Super Bowl XXXVII. He supposedly went on an alcohol-fueled rampage in Mexico. His wife later revealed he thought the team had won the Super Bowl and he was celebrating their victory. Robbins did not even recognize his then-coach Bill Callahan when he was brought back to the team.

Robbins was then kicked out of football for taking steroids during the BALCO scandal. Months later he assaulted policemen in Miami Beach and was shot three times. He was charged with attempted murder. He pleaded guilty to five charges and was in jail and/or rehabilitation for the better part of a decade. Robbins was later caught with crack cocaine and sentenced to five years in prison for violating his probation. Finally, in 2016 he allegedly punched a woman and her daughter in Florida, earning him two felony battery charges. Robbins was sent to a mental hospital.

8. Reuben Foster, Washington Redskins & San Francisco 49ers:

A current iteration of the NFL’s continuing brush with the law, Foster came into the league amid controversy. He failed a drug test at the NFL scouting combine, and it was later found he gave a diluted sample. But the 49ers drafted him in the first round anyhow and he became a top-level NFL player right away.

However, it didn’t last. Foster was arrested for marijuana possession in January 2018 before he was arrested for suspicion of domestic violence, threats, and assault weapon possession a month later. His girlfriend at the time, Elissa Ennis, said, “Foster did not strike her, injure her or threaten her,” and that she made the domestic violence story up after he threatened to call off their courtship. Her injuries were supposedly from a fight with another woman.

That November he was arrested yet again on probable cause misdemeanor domestic violence charges. The 49ers released him the following day but Washington picked him up off of waivers.

7. Tyreek Hill, Kansas City Chiefs:

Like Foster before him on our list, Hill came into the NFL with some questionable baggage. He was kicked off the Oklahoma State football team in 2014 for some disturbing domestic violence allegations where he was arrested for allegedly choking, sitting on, and hitting his girlfriend, Crystal Espinal, who was pregnant with their son, in the stomach. He transferred to West Alabama and finished his collegiate career. It was not thought Hill would be drafted in the 2016 draft but Kansas City took a chance in the fifth round.

The speedster promptly became one of the most dangerous all-purpose threats by 2017. By 2018, he was arguably the most threatening wide receiver in the NFL. However, Hill was soon investigated for an alleged domestic violence incident where his three-year-old son with Espinal suffered a broken arm. Their son was placed into protective custody by the Kansas Department of Children and Families and Hill was suspended from all Chiefs team activities. Audio of Espinal discussing their son being afraid to him came out, and Hill could be saying to Espinal, “You should be afraid of me too.” The criminal case against him was reopened, On June 7, prosecutors announced the case against Hill was inactive in June. Investigations showed his son’s arm was broken in an accident where he was bracing during a fall. Hill met with NFL investigators last week and supposedly supplied evidence that was heavily in his favor, but he will most likely be suspended for multiple games.

6. Tommy Kane, Seattle Seahawks:

Former Seattle Seahawks wideout Kane allegedly grabbed his wife’s hair, smashed her head on the kitchen floor, and stabbed her in the neck at his mother’s house in Quebec. His wife, Tammara Shaikh, died in the care of a church counselor from who was attempting to help Shaikh get Kane into rehab after they had recently broken up.

He was charged with second-degree murder but claimed he was depressed and his charge was lessened. It was debated if he actually attempted to murder his wife on purpose. He pleaded guilty to manslaughter and was sentenced to 18 years in jail. Kane was also required to pay $590,000 to Shaikh’s family by a Quebec court.

5. Ray Lewis, Baltimore Ravens:

Now we’re getting up into the true nitty gritty of notorious NFL criminals. All-time great linebacker Lewis was involved in an altercation following a Super Bowl XXXIV party on January 31, 2000, where two men, Jacinth Baker and Richard Lollar, were murdered by stabbing. Lewis and two of his friends were arrested on first-degree murder charges. The suit Lewis was wearing that night has never been found but was allegedly dumped into a garbage can outside of a fast food restaurant. Baker’s blood was inside Lewis’ limousine.

But Lewis soon agreed to a plea deal where he gave testimony against his two friends, Reginald Oakley and Joseph Sweeting, who were with him that night, and a guilty plea to obstruction of justice charges. Lewis was dealt 12 months probation and Oakley and Sweeting were acquitted of the charges later that year. Lewis became a Super Bowl MVP the following season.

4. Michael Vick, Atlanta Falcons:

We all know the disgusting story of Michael Vick. The unreal-athletic Atlanta Falcons quarterback pleaded guilty to federal charges in the Bad Newz Kennels dog fighting investigation. He had financed a gambling ring that did horrific things to pit bulls. The NFL suspended Vick indefinitely and the Falcons recovered a portion of his signing bonus totaling $19.97 after an arbitration hearing. They did not release Vick immediately but did so in June 2009.

As for the dog fighting ring, Vick admitted to financing several dog fights in Virginia, Maryland, North Carolina, and South Carolina. He also stated he shared the profits from the dog fights and that his accomplices killed the unfortunate dogs who did not perform well. Vick was sentenced to 23 months in federal prison. He returned to the NFL with the Philadelphia Eagles after he was released in 2009, but was required to put $1 million into an escrow account to pay for the care of the dogs he had harmed that were still alive.

3. Lawrence Phillips, St. Louis Rams & Many Others:

Phillips made our list of biggest NFL draft busts, and he’s also one of the most notorious criminals in NFL lore. It all began during his college days with the Nebraska Cornhuskers where he drug an ex-girlfriend down the stairs of an apartment building where she was supposedly sleeping with current Nebraska head coach Scott Frost.

But things got much worse for Phillips after his playing career was over. He was arrested in 2005 for hitting three teenagers with his car after a pickup football game. He was also wanted for three other alleged assaults in California at the time. He was convicted of seven out of his 10 total counts and sentenced to 10 years in prison. While serving out that term, he was convicted of another assault on ex-girlfriend Amaliya Weisle. He was again found guilty on seven counts, including assault with great bodily injury, false imprisonment, making a criminal threat, and auto theft. Phillips was sentenced to another 25 years in prison for the charges.

He was then charged with the murder of his cellmate Damion Soward in April 2015 while in prison. While awaiting trial for first-degree murder, Phillips hung himself in his cell and was found unresponsive. A sad ending to a sad life of one of Nebraska’s most talented football players.

2. Rae Carruth, Carolina Panthers:

Carruth had his friend Van Brett Watkins Sr. shoot his then-girlfriend Cherica Adams four times in a drive-by in 1999. Adams survived long enough to call 911 and told police Carruth had stopped his vehicle in front of her so she could not leave. Another vehicle drove up and someone shot her.

She was eight months pregnant with Carruth’s baby at the time. The child was delivered via emergency C-section but suffered brain damage. Adams died. Carruth fled after she died but was caught hiding in the trunk of a car outside a motel. Carruth was found guilty of conspiracy to commit murder, shooting into an occupied vehicle, and using an instrument to destroy an unborn child and sentenced to 18 to 24 years in prison. The Carolina Panthers released him immediately and the NFL suspended him indefinitely.

1. OJ Simpson, Buffalo Bills:

Just like no other player could other than Ryan Leaf could top our list of the NFL’s biggest draft busts, there’s no other player who could top the list of the NFL’s 25 most notorious criminals.

You know the story. Legendary NFL running back-turned-actor OJ Simpson was arrested for the murder of his wife Nicole Brown Simpson and her friend Ronald Goldman. He led police on a nationally televised chase in the famous white Bronco that pre-empted the NBA Finals. It seemed that Simpson was clearly guilty of the grisly killing, yet his infamous lawyer Johnny Cochrane got him off thanks in part to his infamous “if it does not fit, you must acquit” defense. The case was arguably the most high-profile murder case in US history.

Brown and Goldman’s families sued him after the case. A $33.5 million judgment was ruled in favor of the families. Simpson later got into more legal trouble and was arrested in Las Vegas on nine felonies including robbery and kidnapping. Simpson was convicted and sentenced to 33 years in prison, of which he served nine years. He was released on October 1, 2017, and is now out.

However, for his crimes – convicted or not – Simpson is undoubtedly the most notorious criminal in NFL history, and it’s not really even all that close.