NFL in Review: Five Major Distractions Since 2004

Kris Novak@@kristophernovakContributor IApril 4, 2009

DALLAS - SEPTEMBER 27:  Terrell Owens of the Dallas Cowboys speaks with the media during a press conference on September 27, 2006 in Dallas, Texas. During the conference Owens denied police reports that he tried to take his life after being hospitalized last night at Baylor Hospital subsequent to an apparent suicide attempt from overdosing on prescription painkillers and supplements.  (Photo by Ronald Martinez/Getty Images)

Every team has gone through one. He is the guy who puts the I in team. Most of them are fueled by the media through their fantastic performance on the field, but they can easily destroy team chemistry off the field. 

The terrible thing is that they can easily do this with disregard for everyone around them, whether they be fans, teammates or coaches.

Here are five major NFL distractions; One from each of the past five years.


5. Ricky Williams (2004)

The early retirement of Ricky Williams really put the Dolphins into a downward spiral. He was the backbone of their offensive game. This forced the Fins to shy away from their "run first, pass last offense."

Not only did Williams "retire", he retired without warning, making the Dolphins adjust accordingly. However, they could not. The Fins went from 17th in total rushing yards in 2003 to 31st one year later.

When Williams played in games with the Fins since 2002, their record is 39-25. Without him, their record is 11-37.

Williams did more damage to the overall franchise. With his swift retirement, this caused the Dolphins to draft around the loss of Ricky and reorganize the depth charts, which ended in the ultimate breakdown in 2007 with a 1-15 record.

What if Williams never had left and the Fins had no need to worry about drafting around him or re-tooling free agency to fit their immediate needs? I guess we can only wonder.


4. Terrell Owens (2005)

When T.O. signed with the Eagles in 2004, he did not disappoint. He racked up 1,200 yards and 14 touchdowns, making him seem like the missing piece of the Eagles offense.

He led them to a Super Bowl that season and showed great heart playing with an injured leg.

Then things went from good to bad in the matter of one season. Owens hired a new agent, Drew Rosenhaus (known for getting players the money they want), and wanted to renegotiate his contract with the Eagles.

Not only was Owens causing controversy between him and head coach, Andy Reid, he caused tension between him and QB Donovan McNabb after his comment of McNabb "getting tired" in Super Bowl XXXIX.

Things continued to heat up and tension began to build. Owens was suspended for four games in the 2005 season and ultimately being deactivated for the season. The Eagles went from 13-3 in 2004 to a disappointing 6-10.


3. Adam "Pacman" Jones (2006)

With the Titans season beginning in 2006 with the first-round pick of Vince Young, there were mixed feelings of how it would turn out.

After the lineup change at QB early in the season, Young took over Kerry Collins' position and rallied the team to an 8-8 record. Not bad for a team with a rookie QB, mediocre receiving core and an aging backfield.

Jones was a solid return man and what seemed to be a shutdown corner. He amassed 62 tackles and four interceptions (three returned for touchdowns) and had three punt returns for scores. He proved he can play ball. After the 2006 season, high expectations followed the Titans.

After his breakout year, the Titans banked on Jones locking down receivers. However, Jones was looking to be locked up. After a fistfight and a Las Vegas strip club shooting, he proved to be too much of a distraction to the team.

Commissioner Roger Goodell suspended Jones for the entire 2007 season, which ended in trade talks with the Cowboys in 2008.

The 2007 off season proved to be a disaster for the Titans with headlines turning from, "Vince Young Can be a Leader" to "Jones in Trouble Again."

Jones was then traded to the Cowboys where he caused, yet again, another problem.

2.  Michael Vick (2007)

This was one of the biggest stat changers in NFL history. Vick was indicted on dog fighting charges in 2007. Despite a 7-9 season in 2006, Vick had a great year racking up 2,475 passing yards and over 1,000 rushing yards.

Things were looking good for the Falcons until Vick quarterbacked an illegal dog fighting ring that leaded to his arrest and jail time.

The Falcons dropped from 7-9 in 2007 to 4-12 in the 2007 season. They tried to fill the gaping hole at quarterback with the addition of struggling quarterback, Joey Harrington and Byron Leftwich.

The Falcons led the NFL with an astonishing 183.7 rushing yards per game in 2007, one of the highest in history. With the loss of Vick that number dropped to 95.0.

This forced the Falcons to go back to square one. Lets face it, the only thing that kept that team together back then was Vick.

The Falcons were able to bounce back with the help of rookie quarterback Matt Ryan and free agent running back, Michael Turner.

Even though they did turn things around with the loss of one year, this forced yet another team to draft around the loss of one MVP type player and revamp their game plan.

Although it turned out good for the Falcons, they may have been Super Bowl contenders earlier if Vick had stayed.


1. Plaxico Burress (2008)

Of course, I'm going to end it with Burress, regardless of how deep the Giants went into the playoffs without him. The question you have to ask is, "Would they have made it to the playoffs with him."

Its not like he was having a great season anyway. Through the 10 games he played with the Giants in 2008, he only accumulated 450 yards receiving and four touchdowns.

Most NFL fans would not consider him a distraction throughout the season, it was only until he shot himself in the leg. However, Plaxico did cause controversy early in training camp in 2008. He did not show up because he was upset with his contract.

Not only did he have trouble with the team, he had trouble at home. The police were called twice for domestic disturbance calls in August and September of 2008, which resulted in temporary restraining orders that were both later dismissed by the court.

After finally showing up to training camp and pleading he could not practice because of a "hurt ankle," Burress played in the first three games of the season.

He was suspended for two weeks due to violation of team rules. He was expected to play for the rest of the season until he shot himself accidental in November 2008.

The Giants still made it to the divisional round of the playoffs but ended in a convincing 23-11 loss to the Eagles.

The Giants were 9-2 with Burress starting during the season and were 2-4 without him, including the loss in the playoffs.

Burress has been sued nine times since the start of his NFL career in 2000.


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