5 Most Bizarre Team Departures in NFL History

Antonio Brown's exit from Oakland was wacky, but just how wacky?

Antonio Brown's saga with the Oakland Raiders was rare, but not unique. Other players have left or been kicked off their teams in a manner that left their teammates exhausted, disgusted, or simply scratching their heads.

 

However, a valid question is whether Brown's departure from the Raiders was the weirdest. Let's take a look. (NOTE: This list does not include players who left their teams to serve prison sentences so those expecting Plaxico Burress or Michael Vick will be disappointed.)

 

5. John Riggins, RB, Washington Redskins (1980)

Riggins always marched to his own beat. He once drunkenly told Supreme Court Justice Sandra Day O’Connor to "loosen up Sandy baby" at a dinner and sported a Mohawk early in his career. But perhaps his most bizarre move came when he chose to retire from the Washington Redskins during training camp in 1980 over his contract. He sat out the 1980 season and new head coach Joe Gibbs went to meet him at his home in Kansas. Riggins had been hunting that morning and met Gibbs wearing camouflage and holding a beer. They chatted and the running back said, "You need to get me back there. I'll make you famous." Gibbs did and Riggins made kept his word.

 

4. Mark Gastineau, DE, New York Jets (1988)

After recording seven sacks in the first seven games of the 1988 season for the Jets, Gastineau abruptly retired to care for his fiancee Brigitte Nielsen, who told The New York Times that she had uterine cancer. The two had begun having an affair while Nielsen was married to Sylvester Stallone and Gastineau was married to his first wife, Lisa. Not only did it raise a lot of questions, but it also proved to be a false alarm as Nielsen has had four more children since then. The two broke up in 1990 and Gastineau admitted years later that another reason he retired was because he tested positive for steroids and did not want the public to know.

 

3. Terrell Owens, WR, Philadelphia Eagles (2005)

Owens endeared himself to Philadelphia Eagles fans by playing in Super Bowl XXXIX with a broken fibula that had not fully healed. Then he squandered that goodwill in the offseason by criticizing quarterback Donovan McNabb, threatening to not play unless his contract was renegotiated, fighting with head coach Andy Reid, and holding a press conference doing sit-ups in his driveway. Owens did end up playing and the Eagles started 2005 with a 4-3 record, but his behavior did not improve and after a fistfight with team ambassador Hugh Douglas and an ESPN interview blasting McNabb, Owens was suspended indefinitely. When he gave an apology but did not include McNabb, he was deactivated for the season. Owens was released in the offseason and signed with the Dallas Cowboys. While he still had erratic moments in the Big D, nothing compared to that 2005 season in Philly.

 

2. Joe Don Looney, RB (1964-69)

Where to begin? Looney lived up to his name as he played for four different colleges and five NFL different teams in a 10-year span. He flunked out at Texas and enrolled at TCU before being kicked out of there too. Looney then played a year at Cameron (Okla.) Junior College and won a national championship before enrolling at Oklahoma in 1962. He was an All-American there in 1962 but kicked off the team in '63. The New York Giants used a first-round pick on Looney, but his tendency to skip practice or do things like run the wrong way during it prompted the team to trade him to the Baltimore Colts 25 days later. The Colts traded him to the Lions Detroit after the 1964 season because he broke into the apartment of a couple after the three of them had a political argument. During his time in the Motor City, he famously told head coach Harry Gilmer after being asked to run in a play call, "If you want a messenger boy, call Western Union." The Colts traded him to the Washington Redskins, where he punched a pass rusher in the jaw and was cut after the season. After a year of service in Vietnam, he signed with the New Orleans Saints in 1969 and was cut after three games, thus ending one of the most bizarre careers in NFL history.

 

1. Antonio Brown, WR, Oakland Raiders (2019)

Arguably the NFL’s best receiver asked for a trade from the Pittsburgh Steelers and got his wish with a move to the Oakland Raiders in March. He then missed most of training camp because he suffered frostbite on his feet from not wearing proper footwear during cryotherapy, threatened to retire if he was forced to wear a new helmet, and reportedly called Raiders general manager Mike Mayock a "cracker." Brown apologized and said he was ready to play, but then demanded to be released because the Raiders were going to void the guaranteed money in his contract due to his behavior. When Oakland obliged, he posted this silly video and signed with the New England Patriots, making everyone’s Super Bowl pick for this year a lot stronger. Some now wonder if Brown orchestrated the whole thing. If he did, then his kindred spirit isn’t Jerry Rice, Steve Largent, or even Terrell Owens. It’s George Costanza.

 

 

— Written by Aaron Tallent, who is part of the Athlon Contributor Network. Tallent is a writer whose articles have appeared in The Sweet Science, FOX Sports’ Outkick the Coverage, Liberty Island and The Washington Post. Follow him on Twitter at @AaronTallent.

 

(Top photo by Tony Gonzales/Oakland Raiders, courtesy of raiders.com)

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