These NFL Players Notoriously Got in the Most Trouble Off the Field

Let’s face it — some NFLers are just known for getting themselves into trouble. And while some are notorious for causing kerfuffles on the field, others have made names for themselves off the gridiron. We aren’t talking about mild crimes either. We’re talking about players accused of assault, drug abuse, and even murder. While all offenses are shocking, some are also just down-right sad. Here’s a look at 15 NFL players best known for the chaos they caused off the field.

Plaxico Burress

Plaxico Burress | Chris Gardner/Getty Images

The former New York Giants wide receiver made headlines in 2008 when he accidentally shot himself in the leg while at a New York nightclub. To make matters worse, he didn’t have a license in New York to carry a firearm and the hospital where he was treated never called the police to report the incident. A civil lawsuit and tax indictment followed, and Burress subsequently missed the next two NFL seasons for violating the league’s personal conduct policy.

Next: Speaking of Giants’ players sustaining avoidable injuries …

Jason Pierre-Paul

Jason Pierre-Paul | Al Bello/Getty Images

Setting off fireworks on the 4th of July can be a risky business. And nobody knows that better than Jason Pierre-Paul. The former Giants defensive end almost completely lost his hand after a firework he was holding exploded. His NFL career has continued despite missing some of his digits, but he has done some good by doing PSAs to promote firework safety.

Next: Best known for his self-destructive behavior …

Johnny Manziel

Johnny Manziel | Gregory Shamus/Getty Images

For a brief stint, “Johnny Football” was known for being the first college football freshman to ever win a Heisman Trophy. But he soon became best known for not taking his professional job as Cleveland Browns quarterback seriously. His excessive partying mixed with the accusations of violence his ex-girlfriend made against him eventually landed him in rehab and then got him booted out of the league.

Next: This incident spread out over multiple seasons …

Adrian Peterson

Adrian Peterson Bob Levey/Getty Images

The high-profile running back was accused of child abuse and negligence in 2014. Peterson’s son, then four years old, showed up to a doctor’s visit with bruises and lacerations on his body after Peterson used a switch to discipline him. Peterson was suspended and fined, and although he continues to play today the child abuse allegations are forever attached to his image.

Next: One of the incidents that brought domestic violence to the forefront …

Ray Rice

Ray Rice | Rob Carr/Getty Images

In February 2014, Ray Rice and his fiancee Janay Palmer were arrested at a casino in Atlantic City for what was first described as a minor physical altercation. The league initially suspended Rice for two games, but then came under criticism when video footage emerged of Rice punching Palmer and knocking her unconscious. The Ravens released Rice and the league suspended him indefinitely — while also announcing they were updating their policy on domestic abuse.

Next: On that note …

Greg Hardy

Greg Hardy | Christian Petersen/Getty Images

Defensive end Greg Hardy was arrested in 2014 when his then-girlfriend accused him of abusing her in a graphic account. Court proceedings dragged on for almost a year but ended in early 2015 when Hardy’s accuser failed to show up in court. He quickly became a free agent in that off-season and was signed to a contract with the Dallas Cowboys — who came under major fire for signing someone with Hardy’s alleged history of violence.

Next: Some people never forget …

Ben Roethlisberger

Ben Roethlisberger | Justin K. Aller/Getty Images

Big Ben may still be captaining the Steelers. But many football fans outside Pittsburgh aren’t forgetting that, in 2009 and 2010, Roethlisberger was accused of sexual assault on two different occasions. The league suspended him after the second incident but not for long. To this day, some fans still scratch their heads and wonder why he’s allowed to play in the league.

Next: He can’t drive 55 …

Sheldon Richardson

Sheldon Richardson

Sheldon Richardson | Elsa/Getty Images

Richardson made a name for himself on the football field for doing things that got him fined. But during the 2015 off-season, he garnered attention for leading the police on a 140-plus-mph chase with marijuana and a gun in his car. (A child was in the vehicle as well.) The NFL came under major fire after only suspending Richardson for the first game of the following season.

Next: A major downward spiral …

Ray McDonald

Ray McDonald | Christian Petersen/Getty Images

Over the course of a year, former 49er Ray McDonald was accused of domestic abuse on multiple occasions. Some of the accusations came from his then-fiancee, while another accusation came from another woman who got drunk at McDonald’s house after a birthday party. The Niners released McDonald in December 2014. The Chicago Bears signed him to a one-year deal in March 2015, then released him in May of that year after he was implicated in yet another domestic assault incident.

Next: This player has a laundry list of troubles …

Aldon Smith

Aldon Smith

Aldon Smith | Jeff Gross/Getty Images

As the Sporting News chronicles, Smith’s off-field behavior between 2012-2018 has all but ruined his once-promising NFL career. Alcohol and substance-abuse problems, reckless driving incidents, accusations of domestic abuse, and unsuccessful rehab stints pepper Smith’s resume. He was even sued by his former team, the 49ers, in 2017 for the money he owed from his nine-game suspension in 2014.

Next: A former player synonymous with bad behavior …

Adam “Pacman” Jones

Adam “Pacman” Jones | Tim Warner/Getty Images

Jones was involved in multiple altercations at nightclubs and parties during his brief stint in the NFL. But his involvement in multiple shootings and his known association with Atlanta-based gang members really brought his pro football career to an end. As former executive director of the NFL Players Association Gene Upshaw told ESPN: “How is it possible to be in the wrong place at the wrong time so many times?”

Next: His actions took a teammate’s life …

Josh Brent

Josh Brent

Josh Brent | Tom Pennington/Getty Images

The former Dallas Cowboy was found guilty of intoxication manslaughter after a drunken car crash killed his teammate Jerry Brown in 2012. Brent retired from the league ahead of the trial, then tried to make a comeback in 2014. He played in one regular season game and two playoff tilts before retiring a second time.

Next: This former player is still serving time for his violent past …

Rae Carruth

Rae Carruth #84 of the Carolina Panthers

Rae Carruth | Elsa Hasch /Allsport/Getty Images

Carruth was convicted of conspiracy to murder his girlfriend, Cherica Adams, who was eight months pregnant with Carruth’s child when he reportedly hired two men to shoot and kill her. Adams died a month after the shooting. Their son, Chancellor Lee Adams, was born prematurely because of the shooting and has grown up with cerebral palsy. Carruth is currently reaching the end of a lengthy prison sentence and is trying to gain custody of his son.

Next: An even sadder ending …

Lawrence Phillips

8 Sep 1996: Running back Lawrence Phillips of the St. Louis Rams during the Rams 34-0 loss to the San Francisco 49ers at 3Com park at Candlestick Point in San Francisco, California.

Lawrence Phillips | Otto Greule Jr./Allsport/Getty Images

Phillips’ had the potential to have a fruitful career in the NFL, but he could never keep himself out of trouble off the gridiron. He was sentenced to prison time after he drove a stolen car into a group of teenagers, in addition to a separate incident where he was accused of assaulting his then-girlfriend. While serving time, Phillips was also found guilty of murdering his cellmate. Shortly the murder conviction, Phillips was found dead in his cell.

Next: Lastly …

Aaron Hernandez

Aaron Hernandez

Aaron Hernandez | Jared Wickerham/Getty Images

In the midst of a successful NFL career with the New England Patriots, tight end Aaron Hernandez was arrested and taken from his home in connection to the murder of semi-pro football player Odin Lloyd, whose body was found about a mile from Hernandez’s home. His trial uncovered a history of violence and connections to other murders. While serving a life sentence in prison, he was found dead from apparent suicide.

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