We often think of football as the ultimate team sport since every player is 11 vs 11. But there are always individual battles within each play. On an even larger scale, there are also player vs player rivalries that develop over time that transcend team rivalries. While they may not be as common or intense as the player rivalries in other sports, let’s take a look at some of the most bitter player vs player rivalries the NFL has ever seen.
Steve Smith vs Aqib Talib
It seemed like just another game in the 2013 season, but things quickly turned petty between Smith and Talib. We don’t know for sure what was said, but the two went at it after the whistle on multiple occasions.
When Talib left the game early with an injury, Smith quipped “ice up, son” and later wore a shirt with that slogan on it, showing that the bitterness between the two didn’t go away when the game ended.
Richard Sherman vs Michael Crabtree
In the midst of two rivals playing in the 2014 NFC Championship Game, Sherman and Crabtree somehow made everything about them. A pass intended for Crabtree in the closing seconds was tipped by Sherman, leading to a game-sealing interception.
Understandably upset, Crabtree let loose after the game, only for Sherman to respond by calling him a “sorry receiver,” and reiterating that he was the best cornerback in the league. He concluded things by warning Crabtree not to open his mouth or “I’m gonna shut it for you real quick.”
Terrell Suggs vs Tom Brady
Suggs might be one of the few defensive players with the credentials to talk trash about Brady and almost get away with it. Suggs held nothing back during a 2013 interview, saying that he didn’t like Brady, “his smug attitude,” and that he doesn’t worship the quarterback like everyone else.
He would later reference the tuck rule and Spygate in questioning the validity of some of Brady’s Super Bowl wins. Naturally, Brady took the high road, but you could tell that he was a little perturbed and was a little passive-aggressive in his response to Suggs.
Odell Beckham vs Josh Norman
A lot of cornerbacks and wide receivers have intense one-on-one battles, but Beckham and Norman flat-out hated each other. Of course, this was back when both were elite at their position.
There was legitimate fighting both during and after plays between Beckham and Norman during that first altercation in 2015, and there’s no evidence to show that they’ve squashed their squabbles since then.
Peyton Manning vs Tom Brady
For the record, this is a rivalry of respect rather than hatred. But it’s hard to find a more compelling rivalry between two all-time great quarterbacks than the one that existed for years between Manning and Brady. The two always seemed to be leading their teams against one another in big games. A lot of times, it wasn’t about what team was better but rather what quarterback played better.
In the end, Brady won 11 of the 17 head-to-head meetings between the two. However, Manning’s team bested Brady’s team three of four times when they met up in the AFC Championship Game, including Manning’s last year in the league. Plus, Peyton’s little brother Eli beat Brady twice in the Super Bowl, so there are plenty of bragging rights on both sides.