Behind Bars: A Look at NFL Players Serving Time in Prison

28 January 2023

Professional athletes from the NFL are often regarded as influential role models in their communities, yet some have encountered issues with the law. This article will explore a few of these famous cases – those players that regrettably find themselves in prison today.

Aaron Hernandez

As one of the most notorious NFL player criminal cases, Aaron Hernandez’s story shook the sports world. A tight end for New England Patriots from 2010 to 2013, he was arrested in 2013 and convicted two years later of murdering Odin Lloyd – leading to a sentence without parole that amounted to life behind bars. His case serves as an alarming reminder that even with fame, athletes are not immune from justice.

Michael Vick

One of the most famous cases is that of Michael Vick, who was a quarterback for the Atlanta Falcons from 2001 to 2007. In 2007, federal authorities charged him with running a dog fighting ring and he received 23 months in prison before being released in 2009. After his release, Vick resumed playing football again; first for Philadelphia Eagles then for New York Jets and Pittsburgh Steelers.

Plaxico Burress

In 2009, Plaxico Burress – former wide receiver for the New York Giants and Jets – was sentenced to two years in prison after shooting himself in the thigh at a nightclub due to carrying an unregistered firearm. He was released 20 months later with time served, ultimately returning back into society in 2011.

Donte Stallworth

In 2009, after Donte Stallworth – a wide receiver who had played for the Cleveland Browns and Baltimore Ravens amongst other teams – drove under the influence of alcohol and caused an accident resulting in a pedestrian’s death, he was sentenced to 30 days of imprisonment. He eventually served 24 days before being released from prison.

Darren Sharper

Darren Sharper, a defensive player who donned the jerseys of the Green Bay Packers, Minnesota Vikings, and New Orleans Saints during his 14-year career in professional football, was sentenced to eighteen years behind bars for numerous accounts of rape and attempted rape in 2016. After pleading guilty or no contest to charges across multiple states, he admitted to drugging and then sexually assaulting as many as sixteen women.

The NFL is not immune to the realities of our world, and these examples demonstrate that life can be unpredictable even for those who are in a position of privilege. While it’s true that most players do abide by the law, no one is infallible; we must remember that they too experience mistakes like any other human being. These cases serve as an important reminder to stay humble and remain mindful of how quickly things can change.


Professional athletes are not exempt from the law, and this has been proven through cases such as Aaron Hernandez, Michael Vick, Plaxico Burress, Donte Stallworth, and Darren Sharper. These players have all made mistakes that they will now face the repercussions of in a court of law. As fans who idolize these athletes it is essential to remember what we admire about them – their humanity and flaws just like any other person. We must also understand that once they’ve served time for their actions or crimes then maybe there should be a chance at redemption for each player.