The Cincinnati Bengals are still viewed as one of the more rebellious teams in the NFL.
Though they've cleaned up their act and gotten rid of players with lots of off-field issues, they still have some guys who walk a fine line between clean and dirty. While Vontaze Burfict has a squeaky clean history off-the-field, he’s one of the most hated players in the NFL on-the-field.
The Sporting News compiled a list of the 20 most hated players in the 2017 NFL Season, and Tez came in at No. 2 on the list.
Why him: The difference between Burfict and Suh is that Burfict didn’t wait until he turned pro to begin trafficking in personal fouls and unsportsmanlike conduct. If those were the kinds of qualities football people valued, Burfict might not have been benched by his coaches at Arizona State, and he might not have been available through all seven rounds of the NFL Draft — when the Bengals’ willingness to shop the scratch-and-dent section led them to sign him as a free agent. He has rewarded them with seven career sacks ... and 17 penalties that fit either the personal foul or unsportsmanlike categories. And that’s just the regular season. It doesn’t include the blow to the head against Pittsburgh’s Antonio Brown after an incomplete pass that brought the Steelers 15 yards closer to a game-tying field goal and got Burfict suspended for the first three games of 2016. At the time of his return to competition, Burfict had been fined $805,000 by the league during his career. A lot of Burfict’s controversial plays have been against Pittsburgh, but there also was his apparent ankle-twist against Newton in 2015, the shot later that season against Ravens tight end Maxx Williams (who was merely running a decoy route) and a low hit against New England’s Martellus Bennett when Bennett was not the intended receiver last season. There are multiple YouTube videos dedicated to Burfict’s art.
Frankly, Burfict probably likes being mentioned among the NFL's most hated players. It means he's doing something right when you look at the others on this list, which includes some all-time greats and future Hall-of-Famers.
Speaking of, this list has Tom Brady coming in at No. 1. The hate of Brady comes mostly from jealousy as he and the New England Patriots have won five Super Bowls in addition to making the big game seven times. Brady also went through the Deflategate scandal, which added on some more haters.
Burfict played at a Pro Bowl level in 2016 before ending the season on I.R. due to a concussion. He actually opened the season with a three-game suspension due to repeated violations of the NFL’s safety rules. Those infractions are a big reason why Burfict is so disliked in league circles, but he’s slowly cleaning up his game and becoming a great player without the extra curricular stuff.
There was another Bengal to make this list, though. As you may be able to guess it’s cornerback Adam Jones at No. 13. He makes this ranking based on his troubles as 'Pacman,' which date back to his days with the Titans and Cowboys. He's also had a few knocks on his record in the Queen City, including his most recent offseason arrest in January.
Why him: If you don’t recognize the name, let’s try this one: Pac-Man. Oh, now you get it. Jones’ off-field activities were so notorious after he entered the league in 2005 that he wound up suspended for the entire 2007 season and part of 2008. He was supposed to enter the 2009 CFL season midway through, but Winnipeg chose to abandon that idea and declared, "We will pursue athletes that we believe will contribute to our organization on and off the field." Only the forgiving nature of Bengals owner Mike Brown brought Jones back into professional football. He repaid the team with some solid football — and then by drawing an unsportsmanlike conduct penalty that positioned Pittsburgh for a game-winning field goal in their January 2016 playoff game. And then by getting arrested again this past January, during which time he apparently made obscene and racial statements to the officer transporting him in a squad car.
Twitter comment from @JoeMcCann3: "The guy has made so many mistakes off the field, yet somehow is still in the league."
You can debate the order in which players should be ranked on this list, but I've got no problem with anyone on it, Bengals included. Sometimes it's good to be hated because it typically means you're really good at what you do, even if it does come with a 'questionable' attitude or issue.
In other words, embrace the hate.