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The Many Faces of NFL Wide Receivers

By: Erin Hughes

Edited By: Kylie Augis

It’s no secret that wide receivers have a reputation for being some of the flashiest players on the football field. From pregame outfits to touchdown celebrations to hurdling defensive players, wide receivers are known to bring a sort of spectacle to the game. Let’s take a look at some of the most notable, and in some cases controversial, wide receivers the game has seen.

Antonio Brown

Famous in Pittsburgh, infamous in Tampa, and irrelevant in New England, controversy seemed to follow Antonio Brown wherever he went. Brown had long been the center of attention in Pittsburgh, recording over 1,100 yards in seven of his nine seasons with the club. Towards the end of his tenure with the Steelers, and once JuJu Smith-Schuster started stealing the spotlight, Brown’s relationship with the team and quarterback Ben Rothlisberger, started to break apart, leading to Brown requesting a trade. This trade landed him with the Raiders in 2019 before their move to Vegas. Brown’s relationship skills did not improve in Oakland as he was cut from the team before ever playing a regular season game with them following a verbal altercation with former GM Mike Mayock, along with a few off-the-field incidents. Shortly after his departure from Oakland, Brown signed with the New England Patriots where he would appear in just one game before being released again. During the 2019 season, Brown was being investigated by the NFL for sexual assault allegations made against him, so he spent the rest of 2019 and the beginning of 2020 as a free agent until he ultimately signed and won Super Bowl LV with the Tampa Bay Buccaneers. Brown would return to Tampa for only a portion of the 2021 season when his NFL career ended after he stripped off his uniform and ran off the field during a game against the New York Jets, leaving the stadium and team confused by what had happened. Brown was released from the Bucs shortly after the incident and now is the majority owner of the Albany Empire, an arena football team, and is the president of Donda Sports, Kanye West’s sports fashion line.

Stefon Diggs

The magic that QB Josh Allen and his star WR Stefon Diggs have been able to create in Buffalo over the last few years has put hope back into Bills fans’ hearts. However, recent news of Diggs’ behavior during Bills offseason practice may be dulling the shine of the Bills offense, but there is one group that is unsurprised by Diggs’ actions: Vikings fans. Although Diggs was a late draft pick for the Vikings in 2015, he quickly brought new life to the offense, becoming a full time starter just partway through his rookie season. Following the 2017-18 season and his Minneapolis Miracle catch, Diggs signed a five year contract extension, though he would only end up using two of those years before being traded to the Bills in 2020. Before his move to Buffalo, Diggs said that he had issues with Vikings QB Kirk Cousins and didn't like his own role in the offense at the time. This may sound familiar to Bills fans because these are the issues that Diggs reportedly now has with Buffalo. Diggs had not attended the voluntary portion of the offseason program, as reported by YahooSports, but did show up for mandatory minicamp, except he left before the first practice started after meeting with head coach Sean McDermott and GM Brandon Beane. During the Bills divisional game loss to the Bengals in the postseason, Diggs was frustrated following the 17 point loss to their rivals and left the locker room quickly after the game, so one has to wonder if these frustrations for Diggs have been building for longer than we know.

Terrell Owens

Terrell Owens is regarded as one of the best receivers of all time. The Hall of Famer brought big plays and starpower to the field, making sure fans always got a show. Owens is currently third in NFL history for career receiving yards and receiving touchdowns. However, Owens’ antics in the locker room and off the field were polarizing for fans. These antics are part of what led Owens to never playing the full duration of his contract with a team, as detailed by BleacherReport. During his seven season stint with the team that drafted him, the San Francisco 49ers, Owens produced one of the most iconic and infamous football celebrations: spiking a football on the Dallas Cowboys star on the 50-yard line, which made for an interesting relationship when he signed with Dallas two years after leaving the 49ers. Owens is also known to be very outspoken, and some might even say dramatic. Before his departure from San Francisco, Owens got into a verbal argument with the 49ers front office because he believed they were underpaying him. He then had a stint with the Eagles that wound up with them making it all the way to Super Bowl XXXIX, though after they lost to the Patriots, Owens suggested that his quarterback, Donovan McNabb, had given up at the end of the game. Following that season, Owens was supposed to be negotiating another contract with the Eagles, but he threatened to hold out and did sit ups in his driveway for the media to report on. The sit ups were to no avail as the Eagles chose to release him prior to the 2006 season. Owens seemed to destroy almost every locker room he walked into after that, never staying in one place for more than a rough 3 years. Owens is still playing football; he currently plays for the Knights of Degen of the Fan Controlled Football League.

Chad ‘Ochocinco’ Johnson

The man who changed his name so everyone would know his name, Chad ‘Ochocinco’ Johnson has gone down in Cincinnati Bengals history for a multitude of reasons. Johnson was drafted by the Bengals in the second round of the 2001 NFL Draft. It wasn’t until the 2003 season that Johnson really started to make his impact when he set the Bengals franchise record when he recorded 1,355 receiving yards. In 2005 he broke his own record by recording 1,432 receiving yards. During this 2005 NFL season, Johnson’s personality really started to shine. He announced that he was going to make a list of the defensive backs in the league that were able to successfully cover him and he titled it Who Covered 85 in ‘05. Johnson’s personality became an even bigger topic of conversation because of his notable touchdown celebrations. Johnson has done it all, from salsa and river dancing, performing CPR on a football, proposing to a cheerleader, and even putting on a replica Hall of Fame jacket. In 2008, Chad Johnson legally changed his name to Chad Ochocinco during Spanish Heritage month, but he unfortunately changed it back to Johnson in 2012. Johnson was with the Bengals from 2001 until 2010 when he left because he felt that former head coach Marvin Lewis was mean to him, as he put in a tweet, but still gave praise to his QB Carson Palmer. Johnson then signed consecutive one year deals with the Patriots and Dolphins until ultimately retiring from the NFL after the Dolphins released him two months into his contract following his arrest for domestic battery. Johnson spent some time in the Canadian Football League, but has not played football since 2017.

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