Donovan McNabb and the 10 Laziest Players in NFL History

Adam LazarusSenior Analyst INovember 2, 2011

Donovan McNabb and the 10 Laziest Players in NFL History

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    Perception is reality, especially in the NFL.

    So when a player is tagged with the most undesirable label of them all—lazy—it tends to stick. And it's pretty hard to imagine that those rumors are created out of thin air.

    Now in today's NFL, with bigger salaries and franchises always willing to take a chance on a player with talent, there seems to be more laziness out there than at any other time in NFL history. Thus, this list of the 11 laziest players in league history is loaded with current and recent names.

    Although that may seem biased, think about it: If you were lazy in the 1960s or 1970s, chances are you weren't going to last long enough to even have an NFL career in today's era.

No. 11: Brett Favre, QB

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    Career: 1991-2010

    You might shake your head at this one—after all, given his Iron Man streak, Favre's in-season work ethic had to be incredible—but hear me out.

    Each time that Favre retired and ultimately unretired, there was talk about him being allowed to completely bypass his team's offseason and preseason workouts.

    Although I'm sure there was plenty of uncertainty and hesitation as he decided whether or not he wanted to play another year in the NFL, not being required to attend OTAs, minicamps, workouts and the majority of the preseason probably helped convince him to return, first to the Jets in 2008 and then again to the Vikings in 2009 and 2010.

    Some of that has to be chalked up to laziness.

No. 10: Donovan McNabb, QB

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    Career: 1999-present

    Back in August, Bill Romanowksi said the following:

    The reason why Donovan McNabb is not in Washington right now is because he was lazy....He didn’t spend the time. Mike Shanahan likes guys who will work really hard. I narrow it down to two things. He’s either lazy, or he’s not very bright to pick up the offense. One or the other. I think he’s bright enough, I just think he was lazy.

    Although that was the most recent and most unambiguous statement made about McNabb being "lazy," it's certainly not the only incident.

    For one, McNabb was highly criticized—especially by Terrell Owens, following the Super Bowl XXXIX loss—for being out of shape, and that same issue came up again in 2010, when Mike Shanahan talked about McNabb's lack of "cardiovascular endurance."

    Both are issues that might point to laziness in terms of physical preparation. Since McNabb has also been criticized for a lack of mental preparation—allegedly not knowing the two-minute offense back with Washington, not knowing the rules of overtime a few years earlier—the rumors gained some momentum.

    I tend to think the issues of McNabb's laziness are vastly overblown, but you get the sense that "where there's smoke, there's fire"—and he is currently on a third different team in three seasons.

No. 9: LenDale White, RB

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    Career: 2006-2010

    It's one thing for an offensive lineman or defensive lineman to struggle with his weight and be out of shape, but a ball-carrier? That's borderline inexcusable.

    Yet White, who was projected to be a first-round pick only to fall to the middle of the second round in 2006—where work ethic may have been the cause of his mini free fall—repeatedly struggled with his weight and game shape.

    To his credit, he did shed the weight later in his career by cutting tequila from his diet, but since he seemed to replace that vice with marijuana—the preferred drug of an endless supply of lazy, unmotivated stoners—White's career soon went up in smoke.

No. 8: Deion Sanders, CB/KR/PR

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    Career: 1989-2000, 2004-05

    Like the Ol' Gunslinger, this entry of a Hall of Famer is probably a bit surprising. Since Deion played two professional sports per year, Prime Time is an unusual entry.

    But consider this excerpt from Boys Will Be Boys, Jeff Pearlman's account of the mid 1990s Cowboys dynasty: "For all his Jim Thorpe-esque skills, Sanders was sleeping-dog lazy. In practices, he went all out every third or fourth play.... In meeting rooms he was known to doodle and doze off."

    Then there was Neon Deion's refusal to try to tackle opposing ball-carriers. Maybe part of that was fear of injury or his ego, but laziness had to be a factor as well.

No. 7: Michael Vick, QB

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    Career: 2001-present

    Since his post-prison rebirth, Michael Vick has been forthright and honest about what managed to go wrong in his personal and professional life prior to his incarceration, and he's admitted that one of the reasons why he never seemed to live up to his potential in Atlanta was lack of effort.

    According to a Yahoo! Sports article in 2010, Vick said:

    There was a lot more I could have done off the field and in the film room that could have elevated my game to a different level. ... I was complacent at the time, somewhat lazy, and I settled for mediocrity. I thought what I was doing was enough. ... Just imagine what I could have been doing if I really would have been applying myself. That's a regret I have.

    So do Arthur Blank and the entire city of Atlanta.

No. 6: Charles Rogers, WR

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    Career: 2003-05

    Obviously every player who ever had a preference for weed isn't going to get a spot on this list, and just because a person frequently uses the hippie lettuce doesn't mean he or she is necessarily lazy.

    But the second overall pick in the draft—and something of a hometown hero—should probably be held to a higher standard.

    Although Charles Rogers' shoulder injuries certainly played a part in the short-lived nature of his career, there seem to have been other factors as well.

    In an article about Rogers' personal struggles away from the game, AOL Sports' Michael David Smith noted that Rogers "was always lazy during his playing career, and never seemed particularly interested in making the most of his tremendous athletic gifts."

No. 5: Ryan Leaf, QB

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    Career: 1999-2002

    I suppose when you're forever linked to Peyton Manning, you're always going to seem lazy by simple comparison.

    Ryan Leaf's immaturity and boorish behavior in San Diego are probably the chief reasons why he was one of the biggest busts in NFL history.

    He seemed more interested in partying in Las Vegas and collecting pay checks than football, and it ultimately showed, as he won just four of 21 career starts.

No. 4: JaMarcus Russell, QB

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    Career: 2007-09

    As is the case with Donovan McNabb, I have to believe that the legendary proportions of laziness regarding Russell have unfairly reached mythical status.

    There's no way a player reaches that point of success in college and through the draft process without having some level of work ethic ingrained in him. No matter how much money he earns right off the bat, that's not going to completely evaporate...nor would a coaching staff and front office allow it.

    Nevertheless, there is always some truth to these types of behind-the-scenes rumors. For Russell to be so unceremoniously discarded proves that.

    If being out of shape and overweight wasn't enough to prove that Russell lacked even a marginal work ethic, Russell's head coach Tom Cable sealed the deal in the spring of 2009, Russell's final NFL season:

    If he can accept the responsibility of being an NFL quarterback, I think that's working more, working harder, working longer than everybody else, accepting the responsibility that his teammates look to him as the face of the organization, that he has to go above and beyond almost on a daily basis, I think that comes with that position, whether that's right or wrong, that's what it is, if he can accept that and become that, he'll be fine. He'll be great, I think. Has he done that? I think during the last six weeks he started to, during the season. I think thus far in the offseason he's been around more than ever. He was never around like this on his own, just watching tape, studying, so that's a step in the right direction. I think he has to embrace that, though, for him to be what he should be.

No. 3: Matt Jones, WR

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    Career: 2005-08

    Back when he was a stud at Arkansas, I remember hearing that Matt Jones was so fast he could literally roll out of bed and run a 4.4 in the 40-yard dash. That was a remarkable feat...until the point where it started to become commonplace: He would literally roll out of bed and not put in any other effort aside from on game day.

    Apart from the drug/legal woes he ran into, Jones reportedly didn't work hard for the Jags and showed pretty much no interest in his team's games. Jacksonville head coach Jack Del Rio once said after a loss in 2007, "I'm not comfortable with some of the body language he's exhibiting."

    If that's not proof enough that Jones was lazy or, better yet, uninspired during his NFL career, this might be: Even after all his problems and disappointments, the Washington Redskins still showed interest in signing Jones last November. He declined the invitation.

No. 2: Albert Haynesworth, DT

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    Career: 2002-present

    I know it's completely unfair to single out one unfavorable play as the defining moment of an entire career—especially a career that produced multiple All-Pro seasons, trips to the Pro Bowl and nearly an NFL Defensive Player of the Year award—but come on. Just look at the video. This moment last season against the Eagles was the very definition of lazy.

    Even if you are able to get past Haynesworth's lying down, he was repeatedly criticized for laziness by defensive coordinator Jim Haslett, and as recently as this summer he was so out of shape he failed the Pats conditioning test.

    It's probably too simplistic to say, but Haynesworth seems to be the quintessential case of a player who was hungry and built himself up into a great talent only to become endlessly complacent once his bank account was loaded with millions.

No. 1: Randy Moss, WR

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    Career: 1998-2010

    It has to be one of the all-time greatest (albeit totally academic) sports arguments: How good could Randy Moss have been had he tried?

    Just look at what the greatest receiver in history, Jerry Rice—probably the best definition of the antithesis of lazy—said back in August:

    It was hard for me to swallow because I was not as talented and I had to work harder. To see a guy with that much talent not give it 100 percent, it was almost like a little slap in the face.


    He could have been one of the greatest if he had worked just a little bit. I don't think he wanted to give it 100 percent. You never knew what you were going to get with Randy. Sometimes you'd get the unbelievable guy, the amazing guy. Other times you'd get the guy that took a couple plays off.

    Moss actually admitted to taking plays off and routinely jogged quarter-speed on the field during running plays.

    Considering how many opposing corners—Darrelle Revis, for example—saw him "let up," it's pretty amazing that Moss managed to score the same number of touchdowns as Michael Irvin, Lynn Swann and John Mackey combined.