One of the most awesome things about the National Football League is hard hitting—the guys who can really deliver a vicious blow to an opponent.
But sometimes players go too far. They hit with their helmet or hit after the whistle. Recently the NFL has been cracking down on illegal helmet-to-helmet hits with fines (and potentially suspensions), but that hasn't stopped a number of players from continuing their dirty style of play.
The following slides will introduce the 12 dirtiest players in the NFL today.
Defensive end Chris Clemons was fined by the NFL three times in 2010 for roughing the passer.
He did finish the season with 11 sacks, which marked the first productive season of his NFL career but also established him as a relatively dirty player in the league.
Brian Dawkins is my all-time favorite athlete and perhaps the nicest human being on Planet Earth.
But he is unfortunately at least a mildly dirty player. He actually has a (probably well-deserved) reputation for being able to get away with illegal hits because of his nice-guy image.
In 2009, Sports Illustrated highlighted him as one of the dirtiest players in the league. He's also had some extremely questionable hits over the years, notably a hit that ended Giants wide receiver Ike Hilliard's season in 2002 (Dawkins was fined $50,000 for the hit).
Not many wide receivers are considered dirty players. Hines Ward is an exception.
One of the best blockers at his position in league history, Ward has become notorious for his cheap shots. In 2008, he broke the jaw of Cincinnati Bengals linebacker Keith Rivers with a block. The NFL changed its rules the next year, banning such hits.
Finnegan was voted the dirtiest player in the National Football League by Sporting News in a vote taken midway through the 2010 season.
Perhaps the best example of Finnegan's dirty play is the pushing and shoving between him and Houston Texans wide receiver Andre Johnson last year, an incident that ended with Finnegan and Johnson fighting.
You've probably heard the joke by now: Cortland Finnegan should change his name to Innegan because Andre Johnson knocked the F out of him.
What's even worse for a guy like Finnegan is that he enjoys his reputation as the league's dirtiest player.
James Harrison, to me, is the dirtiest player the NFL has seen in years and years.
The Pittsburgh Steelers linebacker was fined $120,000 for a number of illegal hits last season. In particular, he knocked Cleveland receivers Mohamed Massaquoi and Joshua Cribbs out of the game. He also had hits on defenseless quarterbacks three times (Drew Brees, Jason Campbell and Ryan Fitzpatrick were the victims).
In 2011, Harrison will probably become the first NFL player ever suspended for an illegal hit.
With the Tennessee Titans last season, Babin was fined a total of $35,000 for illegal hits, notably a play against the San Diego Chargers when he attempted to take out quarterback Philip Rivers at the knees.
Richie Incognito was voted the seventh-dirtiest player in the NFL by Sports Illustrated in 2009.
He was fined $35,000 for three separate in-game incidents against the Washington Redskins in 2008: a personal foul for repeated abuse of an official, a major face-mask penalty and a chop block.
He has drawn at least two personal foul penalties in a game no fewer than four times.
The Arizona Cardinals linebacker was voted the second-dirtiest player in the league in 2009 by his peers. The voting was conducted by Sports Illustrated.
Porter's most famous incident of dirty play was a late hit on Browns punter Chris Gardocki in 2003 that caused the punter to give Porter the middle finger.
Ray Lewis is an incredible linebacker and one of the greatest defensive players in NFL history.
But his success didn't come without a lot of intimidation and a decent amount of dirty play. Lewis was fined $25,000 in two separate incidents in 2010, even at the age of 35.
Roy Williams is such a dirty player that the NFL basically created a rule after his style of play. You know it as the horse-collar rule.
In 2004, Williams injured three separate players using the tackle, including breaking the leg of Eagles wide receiver Terrell Owens.
He is still frequently fined by the NFL for using the move.
Adrian Wilson is one of the better safeties in the National Football League, although playing for the Arizona Cardinals has deprived him of the opportunity to earn a solid amount of publicity.
He has been flagged for close to 20 personal foul penalties in the last decade. That's easily the most in the NFL.
The newly acquired Patriots defensive tackle has been voted as high as the second-dirtiest player in the league by his peers. He is an aggressive, tough football player who has been known to take it too far more than a few times.
In 2006, he stomped on the head of Dallas Cowboys center Andre Gurode, causing Gurode to bleed profusely from his scalp. Haynesworth's five-game suspension was the longest in-season suspension for an on-field incident in NFL history.