As the 2013 NFL season begins, it’s worth some time to look over the top players thatgive football the reputation it has today. One of intensity, grit, and resilience that the game has encompassed since the beginning of the game of football.
6. Anquan Boldin
Anquan has been a fixture in the league since his first game as an Arizona Cardinal. He tied the record for most yards from scrimmage in a first game (217) but his real toughness was defined on September 28, 2008. Boldin received a helmet-to-helmet shot in the end zone from New York Jet Eric Smith which temporarily knocked them both unconscious. Anquan left the game on a stretcher and suffered multiple facial fractures which had to be repaired by 40 titanium screws and seven, count them, seven plates. His jaw had to be completely wired again just to realign his bite. He came back as strong as ever though, catching 2 touchdowns against the panthers in the next game he played. In 2009 he became the fifth-fastest NFL player ever to gain 7,000 receiving yards and a year later, he became the fastest player in NFL history to reach 600 receptions, doing so in just 98 games. Last year he was a huge help in aiding the Baltimore Ravens to a super bowl and he did all this with a fake face. This dude is tough as nails.
5. Ndamukong Suh
Suh has made his presence known in the trenches ever since his rookie year, in which he led his team, all rookies, and all defensive tackles in sacks with 10. He was even picked as a starter in the Pro Bowl which had not been done by a rookie since Barry Sanders. Ndamukong has always been known for his questionable style of play which has been extremely aggressive as he has racked up a total of over $40,000 by the league for three violations not even into his second year of playing. He was named the dirtiest player in the NFL in a poll of players conducted by the Sporting News and has the record of the most personal fouls in the span of two years (9). If that wasn’t enough, we all remember the stomping incident on thanksgiving in 2011 and the Schaub groin kick the following thanksgiving. Nevertheless his teammates love his energy and I would be pretty upset if I had to play every Thanksgiving as well.
4. James Harrison
This linebacker is one of the best of our time and one of the most intimidating as well. 2009 went very well for him as he won the Superbowl and took the title of AP NFL Defensive Player of the Year, but his 2010 season was marred with many dirty plays including knocking out two Browns receivers in the same game. All together he racked up over $100,000 in fines, which obviously pissed him off as he went on to call NFL commissioner a crook and that he hated him, something that took some serious guts, but in my opinion, had to be done. Harrison is also a boss because he has gone through arthroscopic knee surgery and a broken orbital bone. Every player knows Harrison is a tough guy and is not afraid to get fined as he has shown in the past which causes a serious intimidation factor for his new team, the Cincinnati Bengals.
3. Steve Smith
Don’t be fooled by this guy’s 5’9 frame. This bad ass isn’t afraid to get into it with anyone including his own teammates. In 2002 he fought teammate Anthony Bright and left him with a broken nose and hospitalized for two nights while Smith went to jail for misdemeanor assault. In 2008 he got into it again with a teammate Ken Lucas, breaking his nose as well. All drama aside, Smith has proved that he is a leader and one that will put his teammates in place but more importantly, stand up for them. He has been in so many altercations with other players that it would be impossible to name every instance that he has been in the middle of some action. Smith is also extremely resilient and has played 12 years in the NFL suffering through multiple concussions, a broken leg, and a broken arm. All in all, do not mess with Steve Smith or the Carolina Panthers, or you will catch the wrath of this 5’9 nose breaking machine.
2. Cortland Finnegan
Cortland Finnegan is the absolute master of getting under a receivers skin. To him it’s a job and he is very damn good it. Take this for instance, last year in week 2 against the Washington Redskins, Finnegan was able to upset receiver Josh Morgan so much so that he threw the ball at Finnegan in the closing seconds of the game which resulted in an unsportsmanlike conduct penalty. Because of this penalty, the ‘Skins were moved back 15 yards and moved what would have been a game tying 47-yard field goal into a 62-yard field goal, which proved too long for the Redskins and the Rams recorded their first victory all thanks to Master Finnegan’s antics. Cortland has recorded many unnecessary roughness penalties and fines over his career and he is most well known for his fight with Andre Johnson. In 2010, Finnegan was challenged with daunting task of guarding arguably the best receiver in the NFL. He approached the task the best way he knew how, by annoying the hell out of him until Johnson snapped, which he did and landed 2 strong punches on Finnegan before the fight was broken up. Johnson later apologized for his actions and admitted that it seemed like Finnegan was just annoying him for the fun of it. Finnegan claimed that he made no effort to throw any punches because that would be an automatic suspension proving that he was just trying to set of Johnson, which is what happened. If I would be afraid of one player covering me in all of the NFL, it would be Cortland Finnegan.
1. Richie Incognito
Richie has been in the top five consistently for the dirtiest player of the year award including taking the title in 2009 and he takes great pride in it. “It definitely plays on defenders’ minds that this guy is going to get after you for four quarter” he said, and there is no doubt that it does. Incognito takes the #1 spot in this poll because he realized his actions when he played in Saint Louis actually hurt his team instead of hurt them. So he decided to clean up his game and find that “fine line between dirty and physical” as he put it. He definitely found it, and his prime target has been Antonio Smith of the Houston Texans. Last year Incognito got so much under his skin that Smith kicked him and drew the ire of the NFL which rewarded him with a nice fine. This year in the preseason, Incognito got right back to where he left off with Smith and caused him to rip off Incognito’s helmet and swing it at it’s owner. This action took over $350,000 out of Smith’s bank account and is going to cause him to miss week one of this upcoming season. Incognito has finally adopted the Cortland Finnegan strategy but he is three times as big as him which will no doubt have an affect on whoever he blocks this year.