Commentary

Flag these guys down when there's a penalty on the play

Who are the most penalized players in the NFL? With the help of ESPN researchers, Mike Sando starts naming names of the players who fill the laundry baskets -- and even some of those who don't.

Originally Published: November 9, 2007
By Mike Sando | ESPN.com

Robert Gallery and Barry SimsGreg Trott/Getty ImagesRaiders linemen and partners in crime Robert Gallery (left, No. 76) and Barry Sims are tied for second overall in the NFL with 11 penalties each thus far this season. Only Green Bay corner Charles Woodson -- a former Raider -- has more fouls this season.
An exasperated Tom Coughlin threatened to bench offensive linemen after his New York Giants committed 11 false-start penalties during a memorable loss at the Seattle Seahawks two seasons ago.

The coach should advocate pay raises for his linemen now.

The Giants' front five has committed only five false-start penalties all season, helping New York get a jump on most of the NFC. Speaking of getting jumps -- no teams get more of them than the Oakland Raiders and St. Louis Rams.

The Raiders' line, led by habitual penalty offenders Robert Gallery and Barry Sims, leads the league with 20 false-start penalties this season.

10 most penalized players, 2004-07

Player Number
Robert Gallery 46
Alex Barron 43
Leonard Davis 39
Chris McAlister 39
Tarik Glenn 37
Al Harris 36
Flozell Adams 35
Quentin Jammer 33
Chester Pitts 33
Jason Taylor 33
St. Louis is second with 16, but Oakland remains within the reach as long as tackle Alex Barron is lining up for the Rams.

Barron has drawn 43 penalties since 2004, second among all NFL players. Gallery leads the way with 46, but Sims is keeping pace this season. They each have 11, tied for second in the league behind Green Bay Packers cornerback Charles Woodson, who has 12.

That's the word from ESPN researchers Noel Nash, Matthew Weeks, Ben Lerner and Paul McGhee. They crunched league-wide penalty totals since 2004, providing enough data to identify trends without reaching beyond average career lengths. They broke down penalties by type and even situation, singling out offenders most likely to hurt their teams in the fourth quarters of close games.

We break down the highlights -- or lowlights, as they might be -- halfway through the NFL season.

1. Habitual offenders

Offensive linemen tend to play nearly all the snaps. Most need to get off the ball ASAP to handle superior athletes on opposing defenses. They would rather risk holding than allow their quarterbacks to take direct shots.

But some of these guys can't function within the rules. Eleven of the 15 most-penalized players since 2004 are offensive linemen.

Oakland's Gallery was the second player chosen in the 2004 draft, but he ranks first on the list of the most-penalized players over the past 3½ seasons. Gallery also makes his penalties count. He's the only player with more than 300 penalty yards, although a couple of defensive backs came close.

Most penalized players 2007 only

Player Number
Charles Woodson 12
Barry Sims 11
Robert Gallery 11
Jason Taylor 10
Flozell Adams 9
Terrell Owens 8
Alex Barron 8
Albert Haynesworth 8
George Foster 8

Green Bay's Woodson (12) and Al Harris (seven) lead all cornerbacks in penalties this season. The San Diego Chargers' Quentin Jammer leads all corners with 33 penalties since 2004, tied with Houston Texans guard Chester Pitts and Miami Dolphins linebacker Jason Taylor for the eighth-most penalties in the league, regardless of position.

The Packers are setting a dubious standard for defensive backfields.

Woodson has 31 penalties since 2004, second-most among corners. Former teammate Ahmad Carroll somehow ranks third with 30 penalties -- even though he's out of the league.

This leads us to the Tennessee Titans' Pacman Jones and Arizona Cardinals' Antrel Rolle. Both entered the NFL in 2005. Jones hasn't played this season, while Rolle lost his starting job. No matter. Jones ranks 12th among defensive backs with 21 penalties since 2004, one more than Rolle.

Washington Redskins corner Fred Smoot is another opportunistic offender. Smoot has 28 penalties since 2004, despite starting only eight games in 2005.

Carson Palmer's 24 penalties lead quarterbacks since 2004. David Carr (23), Kerry Collins (23) and Steve McNair (21) are the only others with more than 17. Peyton Manning (14) and Tom Brady (12) have the 11th- and 17th-most penalties, respectively, among quarterbacks during that span.

2. Getting personal

The Cardinals weren't happy when officials hit safety Adrian Wilson with a personal-foul penalty following a collision with Baltimore Ravens tight end Todd Heap. The call appeared questionable upon review, but Wilson's reputation might have contributed to the ruling.

Wilson leads the NFL with a dozen personal-foul penalties since 2004. That includes a league-high five fouls for unnecessary roughness and four more for grabbing facemasks. Only the Philadelphia Eagles' Omar Gaither has as many 15-yard facemask penalties during that stretch.

Wilson has three more personal-foul penalties for roughing the passer, pushing him past Washington safety Sean Taylor, who has 11, for the league lead.

Most personal fouls since 2004

Player Number
Adrian Wilson 12
Sean Taylor 11
Will Smith 10
Terrell Suggs 8
Jason Taylor 8
Kyle Vanden Bosch 8

Arizona and Tennessee find more than their share of trouble.

Cardinals defensive end Chike Okeafor hasn't played all season, but he leads the league with seven roughing-the-passer penalties since 2004. Cardinals defensive end Darnell Dockett has six personal fouls during that span, bringing Arizona's three-man total to 25.

The Titans' Kyle Vanden Bosch (eight), Albert Haynesworth (seven), Travis LaBoy (five) and Antwan Odom (three) have 23 total. Haynesworth earned a reputation as the NFL's dirtiest player for stomping on the head of Dallas Cowboys center Andre Gurode.

3. Good guys

The best players shouldn't need to bend the rules. The crafty ones know how to avoid detection.

Perennial All-Pro guards Will Shields and Steve Hutchinson each had only two penalties from 2004 through last season, despite ranking first and fourth, respectively, in snaps played by offensive linemen. Hutchinson has zero penalties this season. Shields retired in April.

Steve Hutchinson
Joe Nicholson/US PresswireSince 2004, Vikings guard Steve Hutchinson has had only two penalties called against him.

Defensive linemen rarely draw penalties, but Washington's Phillip Daniels appears beyond reproach. The veteran defensive end has zero penalties since 2004, despite starting 43 of 56 possible games and playing a high percentage of snaps. He missed 11 games due to injury in 2004.

The Cincinnati Bengals' John Thornton and San Francisco 49ers' Marques Douglas have three penalties apiece while starting all but four games since 2004. Oakland's Warren Sapp has four penalties since 2004.

Cornerbacks always will rank among the most-penalized players. It's the nature of the position, particularly with the league eager to facilitate passing.

Most corners with extensive playing time since 2004 are well into double-digit penalties, but a few have managed to do their job without attracting much heat.

The short list includes Buffalo's Terrence McGee (seven), Miami's Renaldo Hill (seven), New England's Asante Samuel (eight), Minnesota's Antoine Winfield (nine) and Denver's Champ Bailey (10).

With so much scrutiny on the St. Louis line, officials have flagged Rams quarterback Marc Bulger only five times, fewest among regular starters at the position. Pittsburgh's Ben Roethlisberger drew only six.

4. Setting the pace in 2007

Woodson, Sims, Gallery and Taylor already have hit double digits in penalties this season.

Cowboys receiver Terrell Owens (eight), Cleveland Browns tight end Kellen Winslow (seven) and Cardinals tight end Leonard Pope (seven) jump out from a list heavy on linemen and cornerbacks. No other receivers or tight ends have more than five penalties.

Chad Pennington lost his job as the New York Jets' starting quarterback, but he remains the most-penalized quarterback this season. He has nine touchdowns and six penalties.

Woodson and Harris aren't the only repeat offenders in Green Bay's secondary. Safety Atari Bigby drew two of his five penalties during Denver's opening drive on Monday night two weeks ago. Woodson, Harris and Bigby have 24 penalties in eight games.

Five players have three personal fouls this season: Philadelphia's Gaither, Arizona's Wilson, Miami's Taylor, Tennessee's Odom and the Giants' Antonio Pierce.

Miami's Jay Feely gets special commendation as the only kicker penalized for unnecessary roughness. He took out Browns return man Joshua Cribbs with a hit out of bounds.

5. On the line

Seattle and San Diego own the least-penalized offensive lines since 2004, with 86 penalties apiece. The Steelers, Jets and Patriots aren't far behind, ranging from 90 to 92. Those teams claimed nine division titles over the past three seasons.

Winning teams face fewer obvious passing situations, cutting down on holding penalties, but there's more at work here. Buffalo hasn't won as much in recent seasons, but the Bills' line has the sixth-fewest penalties since 2004. Discipline counts for something.

Most penalized O-lines 2004-07

Team Number
St. Louis 177
Minnesota 158
Arizona 153
N.Y. Giants 150
Dallas 147

St. Louis, Minnesota, Arizona, Dallas and Oakland reside at the other end. Despite Hutchinson's aversion to penalties, the Vikings lead the NFL with 64 holding calls since 2004, followed by Dallas (58), Washington (58) and Oakland (57). San Diego's line cuts those numbers in half, drawing a league-low 28. The Jets and Steelers were next at 30, followed by New England with 33.

The Rams' line has racked up 1,055 yards in penalties since 2004, more than doubling the division-rival Seahawks in total penalties (177 to 86) and yardage (1,055 to 479). The Rams' 113 false starts were 36 more than runnerup Detroit and nearly triple Seattle's league-low 35.

6. The anti-clutch

There's nothing quite like a boneheaded procedural penalty to doom your team during the fourth quarter of a close game.

Gallery saved 15 of his league-high 46 penalties since 2004 for the final quarters of games with a score differential of seven or fewer points. Barron (11), Dallas tackle Flozell Adams (10) and Ravens cornerback Chris McAlister (10) also made the list, no surprise given their broader tendencies.

Most penalties in 'clutch time' 2004-07

Player Number
Robert Gallery 15
Alex Barron 11
Kerry Collins 11
Flozell Adams 10
Chris McAlister 10
Titans quarterback Kerry Collins, mostly a backup in recent seasons, also made the list with a stunning 11 fourth-quarter penalties in close games. Fellow quarterbacks David Carr (eight), Aaron Brooks (seven), Carson Palmer (seven), Jeff Garcia (six) and Steve McNair (six) also made the list.

McAlister and Giants cornerback Sam Madison each checked in with seven penalties that produced first downs in the fourth quarters of close games. Jammer was next with six, while Arizona's Okeafor led a group of five players with five apiece. Also since 2004, Barron led the league with nine false-start penalties in the fourth quarters of close games.

7. D'oh Awards

Since 2004, Green Bay's defense leads the league with nine penalties for 12 men on the field. Oakland (eight), New Orleans (seven), Miami (six) and Seattle (six) also have more than five. Washington, Atlanta and the Giants have been busted only once, fewest in the league.

Denver and San Francisco have four such penalties since 2006.
Carson Palmer
AP Photo/Tom UhlmanSince 2004, the Bengals' Carson Palmer has been among the QBs most likely to commit a penalty in close fourth quarter games.

Since 2004, Oakland's Derrick Burgess and Philadelphia's Jevon Kearse lead the league with six offsides penalties on third-and-5 or fewer. Arizona's Bert Berry is next with five, followed by Chicago's Alex Brown, St. Louis'' James Hall and Miami's Taylor with four apiece.

Burgess has four since 2006. Miami's Vonnie Holliday and Dallas' DeMarcus Ware each have three.

Darrell Jackson hasn't done much in his first season with the 49ers, but he leads NFL receivers with five false-start penalties since 2006. Matt Jones has scarcely played for Jacksonville, but he has four, tied with Randy Moss for second in the league among receivers.

Moss has 12 false-start penalties since 2004, more than any other receiver.

Coaches cringe when their players run into opposing kickers, turning fourth downs into first downs. Atlanta's Demorrio Williams and San Francisco's Brandon Moore and Keith Lewis are the only NFL players with two such penalties since 2004. All are still employed.

Roethlisberger has zero penalties during the fourth quarters of games when the point differential was seven points or fewer. Bulger (two) and Philadelphia's Donovan McNabb (two) also fall well down the list. Collins, Carr (eight), Palmer (seven) and Aaron Brooks (seven) have been most likely among quarterbacks to draw penalties during crunch time.

All-Flag Team

Players with most penalties at their positions since 2004. Players with fewer than 20 penalties are not ranked among league leaders:

Offense
Position Player Team Penalties Rank
LT Flozell Adams Cowboys 35 Seventh
LG Robert Gallery Raiders 46 First
C Olin Kreutz Bears 26 29th
RG Leonard Davis Cowboys 39 Third
RT Alex Barron Rams 43 Second
TE Tony Gonzalez Chiefs 26 29th
QB Carson Palmer Bengals 24 42nd
WR Anquan Boldin Cardinals 25 39th
WR Chad Johnson Bengals 24 42nd
WR Randy Moss Patriots 24 42nd
RB Mike Sellers Redskins 20 86th

Defense
Position Player Team Penalties Rank
DE Jason Taylor Dolphins 33 Eighth
DT Shaun Rogers Lions 28 23rd
DT Albert Haynesworth Titans 26 29th
DE James Hall Rams 25 39th
LB Terrell Suggs Ravens 21 69th
LB Willie McGinest Browns 16 N/A
LB Antwan Peek Browns 16 N/A
CB Charles Woodson Packers 31 12th
S Adrian Wilson Cardinals 26 29th
S Sean Taylor Redskins 22 61st
CB Ahmad Carroll Former Packer 30 17th

Mike Sando covers the NFL for ESPN.com.