Given that the vast majority of NFL games are spent tackling each other to the ground, bouncing opposition players off the field and bashing heads in no-holds barred collisions, witnessing actual fights, although always a likely possibility, is an occurrence few and far between in football.
Despite this, history has shown that a sport as competitive as football will almost always lead to tempers flaring at some point, and we are here to guide you through some of the more violent and contumacious fights seen in the NFL over the years.
Top 5 Fights Throughout NFL History
5. Joey Porter vs William Green, 2004
Joey Porter, formerly on the Pittsburgh Steelers, was infamous for his on and off the field antics during his stint in Pennsylvania, the most notable of which included raiding the Ravens’ bus in search of Ray Lewis, or perhaps trash talking the Colts prior to their 2005 playoff.
However, one such incident that will live long in the memory of both Steelers fans and the Cleveland Browns faithful sees us rewinding to 2004.
Before the game had even kicked off, Browns running back William Green had seemingly had enough of Porter’s notoriously brazen antics, and the pair began exchanging punches with one another, which eventually led to a rather unsavoury exchange of spit into each other’s faces.
— Blitzburgh (@Blitz_Burgh) October 27, 2018
Both Porter and Green were ejected from the game before kick off and handed $10,000 fines, but the skirmish also ignited a new precedent dubbed the Joey Porter rule whereby teams have a 10-yard buffer on either side of the 50-yard line.
4. St. Louis Rams vs New York Giants, 2014
This next one seems as if it only happened yesterday.
After some heated words regarding Odell Beckham Jr in the press prior to this match-up, it almost seemed inevitable that some sort of fist fight may transpire. However, nothing could have prepared fans for what eventually unfolded as one of the biggest all-out brawls in the league’s history was set in motion.
Beckham Jr, who was just a rookie at the time, was indeed the catalyst for this particular scuffle having celebrated in front of the Rams players earlier in the match, which sparked a monstrous tackle from Alec Ogletree who forced him way over into the sidelines with a late hit, causing him to kick out.
It is hard to describe the sheer scale of the brawl that broke out as a result, so we’ll leave the footage below for you to savour. Needless to say the aftermath saw as many as nine players fined for their actions.
3. The “Bounty Bowl”, 1989
While perhaps not the grandest or most violent melee on this list, the backdrop heading into the 1989 match-up between NFC East rivals the Philadelphia Eagles and the Dallas Cowboys makes for a fascinating read.
It is Thanksgiving, 1989, and an already fractious relationship between these two foes was catapulted into another realm by a somewhat outlandish claim by Dallas head coach Jimmy Johnson, who said Philly head coach Buddy Ryan had taken out a bounty on two of their players; quarterback Troy Aikman and kicker Luis Zendejas.
This allegedly consisted of a $200 cash payment to any Eagles player who could flatten Zendejas, who had coincidentally been cut Eagles less than a month prior.
Ultimately, the Eagles prevailed in a one-sided 27-0 win, but constant hard tackles which would certainly be flagged today, as well as two concussions and endless bickering culminated in one of the ugliest Turkey Day fixtures in NFL history.
2. Chicago Bears vs St. Louis Cardinals, 1986
Rather incredibly, our pick at number two took place in the offseason of 1986, a period where teams very rarely get out of first gear let alone exchange unpleasantries with the opposition.
As the footage below highlights, nearly every single player attempted to get involved – the Bears had one player ejected along with three, yes three, Cardinals players, while NFL commissioner Pete Rozelle sanctioned 51 players for the seemingly never-ending fracas.
1. Cortland Finnegan vs Andre Johnson, 2010
And so, we arrive at number one, and while we have had all-out melees between entire teams on this list, we have picked out a one-on-one fist fight remembered for its sheer brutality.
To provide a bit of context, Cortland Finnegan, then plying his trade for the Tennessee Titans, had a reputation as one of the most antagonising and unscrupulous players in the NFL. After crossing paths with Houston Texans‘ Andre Johnson, one of the more soft-spoken players in the league at the time, Finnegan finally met his match after the pair had been seen quarrelling for the entirety.
In the fourth quarter, Johnson’s fuse finally blew and the pair proceeded to remove each other’s helmets for an old fashioned street fight. The Texans wideout manhandled Finnegan to his knees before landing two hefty blows to his head in a shocking violent episode.
Who remembers Andre Johnson vs. Cortland Finnegan? ☠️ pic.twitter.com/IwFcgcrOHF
— BrotherlyLoveSports (@HardwoodHoopers) September 18, 2022
Surprisingly, the aftermath saw both teams end the feud with haste before both players were ejected and fined $25,000 each.
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