Heading into a Halloween weekend of parties, parades and haunted houses, it’s likely someone will try to scare you. Just consider yourself lucky that stepping onto an NFL playing field is not part of your plans. Yes, there are few things more frightening than being the target of a jacked-up NFL defender, thirsty for blood. Whether it’s a sitting duck quarterback in the pocket, or a defenseless receiver in the open field; countless plays in pigskin history have made certain players question their line of work. The most classic example of an on-field nightmare was back on Nov. 15, 1985, when Redskins quarterback Joe Theismann was blindsided by Giants linebacker Lawrence Taylor; a hit that broke Theismann’s leg in two places (compound fracture of the tibia/fibula) and ended his career at age 36. While there hasn’t been anything as memorable as “The Hit That No One Who Saw It Can Ever Forget” (blame the Washington Post for that awful dubbing), the new millennium has provided plenty of bone-crushing, neck-snapping hits. Here are seven examples of why the NFL gridiron is a very scary place, where the monsters are real and always gunning for you…
PAT WHITE V. IKE TAYLOR
Former West Virginia standout Pat White was considered too small to play the quarterback position in the NFL, and the last play of his career likely proved that theory. In the Dolphins final game of the 2009 season (his rookie year), White scrambled for a first down against the Steelers, and was met by opposing cornerback Ike Taylor’s helmet in the process. The hit knocked White unconscious, and he was carted off the field. White followed up with failed attempts at professional baseball and the United Football League (UFL).
ANQUAN BOLDIN V. ERIC SMITH
Known as one of the toughest wide receivers in the NFL, Anquan Boldin proved his mettle in Week 4 of the 2008 season. Down 21 points with 30 seconds remaining in the game, the then-Cardinal went up for a touchdown grab between two Jets defenders and ended up on the wrong end of a Kerry Rhodes–Eric Smith safety sandwich. Smith’s helmet launched right into the faceguard of Boldin, causing a concussion and facial fracture. The injury laid him out for three weeks, yet Boldin still scored six touchdowns during his final eight games of the season. TROY AIKMAN V. LAVAR ARRINGTON
The illustrious career of Hall of Fame Cowboys quarterback Troy Aikman came to an end on Dec. 10, 2000, against the longtime division rival Redskins. On a failed bootleg play in the red zone, Aikman was gunned down by former linebacker LaVar Arrington, who came full speed at the QB’s right shoulder. The hit knocked Aikman out of bounds, and gave him lucky concussion number 10 of his career. Aikman can now be seen giving foggy accounts of his playing days alongside Joe Buck, as the announcing duo for Fox NFL Sunday.