Today’s NFL is designed to facilitate offense and harshly regulate the defense. Despite this, defensive players get their fair share of big hits in. Sometimes, those hits cross the boundaries of decency and can be categorized as cheap shots.
Here are four dirty cheap shots that have no place in the NFL.
Vontaze Burfict hits Antonio Brown over the middle
The first entry on our list belongs to Vontaze Burfict, a player with no shortage of cheap shots littered throughout his past in both the NFL and college football. It’s been so bad throughout his career, he actually has several montages of his cheap shots posted to YouTube.
Prior to the 2016 playoffs, the Bengals had not won a postseason game in 25 years. That was all about to change when they held a late lead in Pittsburgh. Despite an injured Ben Roethlisberger not being able to get the ball too far downfield, Burfict delivered a late hit on Antonio Brown that would give the Steelers an extra 15 yards.
Tack on another 15 for an unsportsmanlike conduct penalty from Adam “Pacman” Jones and the Steelers were in business. They kicked a 35 yarder for to deliver the Bengals yet another heartbreaking defeat.
Brian Dawkins dislocates Ike Hilliard’s shoulder
Back when the NFL was first penalizing helmet-to-helmet hits, legendary Eagles safety Brian Dawkins was the king of delivering blindside hits to players with his helmet. He’s one of the NFL’s hardest hitters of all-time. In 2002, he’d deliver a cheap shot to Giants wide receiver Ike Hilliard (evidence of the hit is available at 9:18 in the video posted above).
Dawkins delivered the helmet-first blow on a Monday night game during the 2002 season. Dawkins would later say he didn’t intend to hurt Hilliard, though his history of similar hits would indicate otherwise. Both Hilliard and Dawkins would pay greatly for the hit. Hilliard was out for the season with a dislocated shoulder while Dawkins would pay a $50,000 fine.
Ndamukong Suh kicks Matt Schaub in the groin
In a 2012 regular-season game against the Houston Texans, Suh was falling to the ground after attempting to sack quarterback Matt Schaub. Schaub would release the ball. As Suh was on the ground, he extended his foot to land directly in Schaub’s groin area, kicking him. Upon watching the replay, it was hard to conclude the play was anything but intentional. Suh went out of his way to kick Schaub.
This wasn’t Suh’s first or last offense – in a game played on Thanksgiving the year before, he was suspended two games for stomping a player. Schaub would condemn Suh’s actions. When asked if Suh could ever join his team, Schaub deemed his conduct not “Houston Texan-worthy.”
Danny Trevathan takes out Davante Adams
On this edition of Thursday Night Football in 2017, Green Bay Packers’ wide receiver Davante Adams had caught a pass over the middle from quarterback Aaron Rodgers. A Chicago Bear defender wrapped him up, stopping Adams’ forward progress.
Danny Trevathan would then advance on the defenseless Adams, leveling him with a vicious helmet-to-helmet hit. Adams’ mouthpiece came flying out of his mouth and he laid motionless for what seemed like an eternity. The Packers had to stretcher Adams off the field while the Bears and Packers nearly came to blows.
Trevathan would receive a two-game suspension – cut to one game after an appeal. While the media and fans would express extreme displeasure about the hit, many players argued that while it was a hard hit, Trevathan showed no ill intent.
Based on new NFL rules, however, the players were clearly wrong. Trevathan led with his head, which is quite illegal in today’s game no matter how the players try to spin it.