A Former Player's Perspective on the NFL's 10 Best Locker Room Guys
Every NFL locker room is full of guys who were once the leaders of their teams prior to going pro. The select few find a way to continue to lead after they turn pro through their actions, words and play.
This is a list of 10 guys whom I believe are well respected in their locker rooms and do a great job of keeping their teams together. They aren't all guys who give rousing speeches; some of them don't talk much at all.
But they are all great at carrying themselves in a way that makes teammates both gravitate to them and want to emulate them on and off the field.
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Baltimore Ravens linebacker Ray Lewis is one of the most respected players, not only in his own locker room but also around the NFL. That's because he gives everything he has on every play when he's on the field and doesn't mind giving advice to anybody who is willing to listen.
He of course had the charges in Atlanta in 2000, but he has owned his mistakes and preached to other players not to put themselves in the same position.
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Tampa Bay Buccaneers cornerback Ronde Barber has been a consummate professional since coming into the NFL. He plays the game with the intensity you wish all players had, and you never have had to worry about him having issues off the field.
His teammates are pretty much unanimous in their praise of his leadership, especially the last few years as the Bucs have gone through a lot of turmoil.
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He seems to just naturally step up to speak for the players in that locker room, while still going out and playing outstanding football week in and week out. You can see how much his teammates gravitate to him as he leads them in a chant before every game.
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Redskins middle linebacker London Fletcher had been a leader for the Buffalo Bills and St. Louis Rams prior to signing in Washington. Now in his 15th season, it's apparent that Fletcher is the leader not only of that defense but also the guy on the team.
Even though his best days on the field are probably gone, Fletcher continues to be a great role model for the rest of the guys on the team. Just this past January, he was honored with the Bart Starr Award for "outstanding character and leadership in the home, on the field and in the community."
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I was on the Jets roster for Moore's rookie year and saw the very beginning of his transformation. He not only transitioned well to the offensive line but also played at a very high level and earned the respect of everyone in that organization, from the players to the front office.
When Jets wide receiver Santonio Holmes tried to call out the offensive line last season, Moore chose to speak out about it rather than holding his tongue. Although his head coach opted not to name captains for this year, it's clear that Moore is one of the guys the rest of the Jets players look to for stability.
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Philadelphia Eagles middle linebacker DeMeco Ryans was a leader in college at the University of Alabama and for the team that drafted him, the Texans, and he has already assumed a leadership role with the Eagles in his first year with the team.
You can see him getting guys lined up and fired up on Sundays, and it's apparent he is already making a difference for an Eagles defense that was much maligned last year. When you listen to the praise coming from his teammates and coaches, you can see they know he has been the difference maker as well.
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New England Patriots nose tackle Vince Wilfork, in his ninth season in the NFL, is one of the few remaining constants for that team on defense. Wilfork is still playing consistently at a high level and seems to always find a way to make a big play in crunch time.
You can see that he has the respect of all of his teammates, and they lean on him every week. He has also started to mentor some of the younger guys, and that has definitely paid off for the Patriots.
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At every stop in his NFL career, he has been a leader both on the field and in the locker room. In fact, in 2007, he was named by NFL commissioner Roger Goodell to the first ever NFL Player Advisory Council. Even though Spikes hasn't seen much postseason success in his long career, he has never allowed himself to play like a loser.
That he still goes all out after years of dismal results has set a great example for the players coming up behind him.
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On a Miami Dolphins defense that is criminally underrated, linebacker Karlos Dansby appears to be the leader of that group. Dansby came over from the Arizona Cardinals, where he was already one of the leaders, and assumed that role almost immediately in Miami.
Now in his ninth year, Dansby continues to play at a high level and has also shown a willingness to speak for the locker room. After the Dolphins released Chad Johnson, Dansby was one of the few who spoke out about it and said he didn't agree. If the rest of the players didn't have his back, I don't think he could have come out and made that statement.
He has also won the team's Don Shula Leadership Award for the last two years running.
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Pittsburgh Steelers safety Ryan Clark plays on a defense with some legit superstars—of which he isn't one. But while he might not have as high a profile, Clark plays every game like he may never get a chance to play another.
Of course, he has the unique perspective of almost having lost the game, and perhaps his life, after his then-undiagnosed sickle cell trait forced him into emergency surgery after a game in 2007. Since that time, he seems to play with as much or more passion than any guy on that team.
His leadership isn't just reflected in his style of play but also in his speaking for the players as an NFLPA union representative, a position that his teammates have to vote him into. He was especially good at being their spokesman during the lockout, and he acquitted himself well in that role.