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The Down-and-Dirty Dozen

September 05, 2002|Sam Farmer

Twelve of the more infamous characters in NFL history, in no particular order:

Conrad Dobler (offensive lineman, Cardinals, Saints and Bills, 1972-1981)--His bite was as bad as his bark. No joke: Minnesota defensive players actually asked for rabies shots before facing him. He reserves his most biting comments for defensive linemen: "If you can understand a 3-year-old, you can understand most defensive linemen."

John Henry Johnson (running back, 49ers, Lions, Steelers and Oilers, 1954-66)--When they were facing Johnson, every Cleveland player would pitch in $50 for the guy who landed a crushing hit on Johnson. No one ever collected the cash. "I can remember going in on a Monday morning in our training room and there would be five or six guys on the table," longtime Cleveland tackle John Wooten said. "And each one of them was cursing John Henry."

Andre Waters (defensive back, Eagles, 1984-93)--Nicknamed "Dirty Waters," he was always looking for the hit that would send someone off on a stretcher. Said Dallas running back Emmitt Smith after a 1993 game against the Eagles: "I didn't even know he was in the game, but then one time I carried the ball and heard him saying, 'Hold him up, hold him up, I want to get a shot at him.' He was saying, 'I'll break your leg.' "

Jack Tatum (defensive back, Raiders, 1971-79)--Most famous for his hit that paralyzed New England receiver Darryl Stingley in 1978, Tatum also put Hall of Fame receiver Lynn Swann in the hospital with a crushing blow. Tatum wasn't necessarily dirty, but his collisions were so brutal they should have been outlawed.

Jon Runyan (offensive lineman, Oilers/Titans, Eagles, 1996-present)--Every member of the Philadelphia offensive line was fined for illegal hits last season, and this summer Runyan was slapped with another $7,500 tab for spearing. He recently said he has the "perfect job"--instead of going to prison for doing what he does, he gets paid.

Steve Wisniewski (offensive lineman, Raiders, 1989-2001)--Astonishingly friendly and arrow-straight off the field, Wisniewski was one of the NFL's meanest players during his career. He claimed he simply played until the whistle blew, but league officials said otherwise. Once, on a trip to New Zealand, he was asked by the All Blacks to join their rugby squad. He politely declined. "They wanted me to be their secret weapon," he said.

Erik Williams (offensive lineman, Cowboys, Ravens, 1991-2001)--The king of the head slap, Williams was caught on tape in a 1995 playoff victory over the Packers when he cut blocked defensive tackle John Jurkovic and blew out Jurkovic's knee. The hit was ruled legal--no flag was thrown--but it was far outside the moral bounds.

Bill Romanowski (linebacker, 49ers, Eagles, Broncos and Raiders, 1988-present)--TV cameras caught him spitting in the face of San Francisco receiver J.J. Stokes, and that was only one of many Romanowski transgressions. "Let's just say guys always hated playing against me, but they loved having me on their team," he said.

Lester Hayes (cornerback, Raiders, 1977-86)--One of the best bump-and-run defenders of all time--with or without stickum--Hayes also knew how to get in a shot when the refs weren't looking. "If I accidentally made contact with your eye or throat or knocked out your bicuspids or accidentally punched you in the gonads, there were no rules of engagement."

Jack Lambert (linebacker, Steelers, 1974-84)--The meanest guy around, especially when he popped out his front teeth, Lambert--like Tatum--was more vicious than he was dirty. Once, though, he was thrown out of a game at Cleveland when he plowed into quarterback Brian Sipe along the sideline. Asked later why he got the boot, Lambert said: "The official said I hit him too hard."

Kyle Turley (offensive lineman. Saints, 1998-present)--As nasty as he wants to be, especially when it comes to cut blocks. "I don't think I'm dirty at all," he said. "I use the cut block, which a lot of guys nowadays they just cry and whine about it because they don't like to go to the ground."

Chuck Cecil (defensive back, Packers, Cardinals, Oilers, 1988-95)--Another player who hit so hard he should have been outlawed, Cecil, who weighed 188 pounds, once sidelined 250-pound Chief running back Christian Okoye with a shot to the thigh.

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