The NFL’s Biggest Trash-Talkers Know How to Play the Game

  • DeAngelo Hall (Washington)

    Back when Chad Johnson was in full “Ochocinco” mode and keeping a weekly hit list of DBs he planned to torture and tell them about it, Hall (then with the Falcons) had no hesitation in giving Johnson the same treatment the star receiver gave everyone else. Hall once had “I own 85” shaved into his head before a preseason matchup with Johnson in 2007. And do you think it mattered that Ochocinco burned Hall for a touchdown in that game? Of course not. Ochocinco’s out of the league now and Hall is still talking as much as ever.

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  • Steve Smith Sr. (Baltimore Ravens)

    After the Carolina Panthers cut him during the 2014 offseason and the Baltimore Ravens quickly picked him up, the always-fiery Smith promised “blood and guts” on the field when his new team faced his old team in Week 4 this season. On his way to scoring two touchdowns in a blowout win for the Ravens, Smith told the world he was putting a “nail in the coffin” of the Panthers and reminded his opponents to “make sure you mow (the) lawn” of the house he keeps in Carolina. And that’s just what Smith decided to say on camera.

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  • Richard Sherman (Seattle Seahawks)

    The Super Bowl championship, the $57 million contract, the Madden 15 cover…none of it seems to have lightened the chip on Sherman’s shoulder that gives him a constant underdog mentality. The best cornerback in the NFL will absolutely tell you he’s the best cornerback in the NFL. He has no problem calling your receivers sorry (Michael Crabtree), driving your 330-pound linemen to throwing a post-game punch out of pure frustration (Trent Williams), or making “U mad bro?” famous at the expense of your future Hall of Fame quarterback (Tom Brady).

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  • Cortland Finnegan (Miami Dolphins)

    For all of the game’s intensity, football players don’t get into very many fights on the field. One big reason? Everybody is padded up and wearing helmets. You’d have a better chance of breaking your hand throwing a punch at a football player than you’d have a chance of making meaningful contact. And yet Finnegan was once so annoying with his trash talk that he (then with the Rams) famously drove Texans receiver Andre Johnson into an Oscar De La Hoya-like demonstration of flying fists during a game in 2010.

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  • Brandon Marshall

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    Brandon Marshall (Chicago Bears)

    Ironically, the best Brandon Marshall trash-talking moment is one in which he takes offense at another player for…talking trash. In a 2008 locker room interview, Marshall (then with the Broncos) said then-Dolphins linebacker Joey Porter was “soft at heart” and had “popcorn muscles.” Marshall then relayed rumors of Porter “dancing with his shirt off like a girl” at the club and getting beat up on the playground of Porter’s hometown, and finished it up by mocking Porter’s nickname “Peezy.”

    And, yes, this was a wide receiver talking trash about a linebacker. But if you’ve seen him play, you know Marshall is not built like a normal receiver. He looks like he could handle himself against some popcorn muscles.

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  • Terrell Suggs

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    Terrell Suggs (Baltimore Ravens)

    This season’s Week 9 game between the rival Ravens and Steelers was marred by 17 penalties – including a handful of personal foul flags – and Suggs seemed to be in the middle of every altercation. This is nothing new, however. Suggs honed his intimidation and trash-talking skills while playing alongside Ray Lewis, and since Lewis’ retirement has taken over as Baltimore’s biggest blabbermouth. But that should be expected from a man who introduces himself on national TV as “Hacksaw” from “Ball So Hard University.”

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  • Jay Cutler

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    Jay Cutler (Chicago Bears)

    The gun-slinging QB with no patience for niceties or media training is definitely a better movie character than he is a corporate pitchman, but Cutler is paid to throw touchdowns, not smile for the cameras. More blunt than creative with his brand of trash-talk, Cutler doesn’t just lash out at opponents; he’ll unload on his own teammates and coaches as well. His nationally-televised dressing-down of offensive lineman J’Marcus Webb in 2012 is still one of Cutler’s most talked-about moments.

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  • Johnny Manziel (Cleveland Browns)

    Although he hasn’t been on the field as much in his rookie year to show it on the big stage, Manziel is a notorious trash-talker whose act will surely follow him into the huddle whenever he takes over as a starting quarterback. At Texas A&M, where he popularized the “gettin’ money” pantomime, Manziel’s lengthy highlight reel could’ve been played to the soundtrack of his constant laughing at and taunting of opponents.

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  • D.J. Swearinger (Houston Texans)

    If you watched this past season of HBO’s “Hard Knocks,” you’ll remember Swearinger as the defensive back that came pretty close to fighting the entire Atlanta Falcons roster. In a relatively brief amount of camera time, Swearinger became HBO’s most colorful trash-talker since Floyd Mayweather Jr. was fighting on the cable network.

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  • J.J. Watt (Houston Texans)

    As he’s becoming one of the marketing faces of the NFL, you’ll probably see and hear less of Watt doing anything potentially controversial in terms of trash-talking, but the reigning NFL Defensive Player of the Year still has some clever gems in him.

    In a Week 8 win over the Titans this season, for example, Watt sacked social media savvy QB Zach Mettenberger and then mocked the rookie by pretending to take a selfie.

    “It’s just kind of a reminder: This is the National Football League, not high school,” Watt told reporters after the game. “Welcome to the show.”

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  • DeAngelo Hall
  • Steve Smith Sr.
  • Richard Sherman, Michael Crabtree
  • Andre Johnson, Cortland Finnegan
  • Brandon Marshall
  • Terrell Suggs
  • Jay Cutler
  • Johnny Manziel

The same helmets, mouthpieces, and facemasks that protect NFL players from the hits they take to the head are the same tools that often protect NFL players from potential hits to their bank accounts.

Trash-talking at the sport’s highest level can be an expensive habit. San Francisco 49ers quarterback Colin Kaepernick was handed a $5,500 league fine earlier this season for using “inappropriate language” on the field. Peyton Manning, the league’s closest thing to a presidential candidate, was even docked $8,000 for taunting during the preseason.

But unlike the NBA, where courtside cameras and intimate arena seating allow us to see and hear every bit of body language and every verbal interaction, the NFL enjoys a safer distance from prying ears and eyes. And if we can’t hear it all, then the league can’t hear it all, which means a lot of fine-able offenses are going unpunished.

We know NFL players talk trash. Like the NBA, pro football no doubt has its share of prolific trash-talkers. But some of their most entertaining material is hidden beneath helmets, muffled by mouthpieces and, well, masked by facemasks. And yet enough of it gets through (thank you, NFL Films) that we can still put together a list of the league’s top trash talkers…even if we’ll never know all that they’re saying.

And if you know anything about the game, you wouldn’t be surprised to find out many of football’s sultans of smack are wide receivers and cornerbacks: the flashiest, most isolated (and therefore most attention-grabbing) offensive players on the field and the defensive players who need to play with more confidence than anyone else on the field.

Perhaps the NFL’s residing godfather of gab is 11-year veteran cornerback DeAngelo Hall. Since entering the league with Atlanta in 2004, through a stop in Oakland and now with Washington, Hall has traded words with just about any elite receiver (and elite trash-talker) you can come up with, Chad Johnson and Terrell Owens to Roddy White and Dez Bryant.

Hall made news recently for tearing his repaired ACL while making a pizza but with this being Hall’s 31st birthday, it only seems right to recognize him for things he’s done on the field. He’s our headliner in this list: The NFL’s Biggest Trash-Talkers Know How to Play the Game.

Follow Amaar on Twitter at @AmaarAbdulNasir

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