If you had to guess the most badass player in the NFL, you might guess Texans defensive end J.J. Watt or newly unretired Raiders running back Marshawn Lynch.
But those two tied for second in our informal media poll, losing out to 39-year-old Steelers linebacker James Harrison, who has built a reputation both on the field — remember that 100-yard interception return for a touchdown in the Super Bowl in Tampa in 2009 — and off.
Harrison posted a workout video recently that showed him and friends on a beach volleyball court, casually tossing a medicine ball back and forth over the net. His weight-room exploits are the stuff of legend.
"Forget a dark alley; I wouldn't want to meet him at church," said Eric Branch of the San Francisco Chronicle.
"Ageless linebacker posted video of workout at 5:10 a.m. on Jan. 16, just an hour after team got home following playoff win in Kansas City," said Joe Rutter of the Pittsburgh Tribune-Review.
"No badass list is complete — or should begin anywhere else other than with — James Harrison," said Eric Edholm, an NFL writer who has worked at Yahoo Sports. "Dude has lava coursing through his veins; nothing else can explain his ogre strength or infinite pain threshold.
Good to be bad
We had a media panel of 43 NFL writers — some national, some local, some newspaper, some online — and asked them for the three teams and three individual players in the NFL who are the most "badass," as coach Dirk Koetter wants his Bucs to be.
The responses were all over the map — fully half the league (16 teams) got a vote, as did 42 different NFL players.
Most badass team
1. Patriots (29 votes)
2. Seahawks (27)
3. Steelers (18)
4. Raiders (9)
5. Ravens (8)
6t. Broncos (6)
6t. Cowboys (6)
8. Bengals (4)
9t. Cardinals (2)
9t. Packers (2)
9t. Panthers (2)
9t. Texans (2)
Also receiving votes: Chiefs, Falcons, Rams, Titans (1 each)
Most badass player
1. James Harrison, Steelers LB (14 votes)
2t. Marshawn Lynch, Raiders RB (10)
2t. J.J. Watt, Texans DE (10)
4t. Kam Chancellor, Seahawks S (8)
4t. Ndamukong Suh, Dolphins DT (8)
6. Tom Brady, Patriots QB (7)
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7. Von Miller, Broncos LB (6)
8t. Rob Gronkowski, Patriots TE (5)
8t. Khalil Mack, Raiders LB (5)
10. Aaron Donald, Rams DT (4)
Also receiving votes: Julio Jones, Richard Sherman, Joe Thomas (3 each); Odell Beckham, Eric Berry, Anquan Boldin, Vontaze Burfict, Thomas Davis, Luke Kuechly, Aaron Rodgers, Ryan Shazier, Aqib Talib (2 each); Geno Atkins, Mark Barron, Michael Bennett, Antonio Brown, Jadeveon Clowney, Marcell Dareus, Julian Edelman, Larry Fitzgerald, Frank Gore, Richie Incognito, T.J. Lang, Taylor Lewan, Andrew Luck, Kelechi Osemele, Ben Roethlisberger, Steve Smith, Darren Sproles, Terrell Suggs, Earl Thomas, Olivier Vernon (1 each)
Winning is, well, badass
That was the general agreement in the Patriots and Seahawks finishing 1-2 in our team balloting — they accounted for 54 votes, and the other 30 NFL teams combined for 65 total votes.
Among the best comments on why the Patriots deserve such high praise:
• "They keep winning in a league designed to discourage dynasties." — Terez A. Paylor, Kansas City Star
• "Hands down. They take a three-touchdown lead and keep throwing, and throwing, and don't give a damn what anybody thinks." — Tyler Dunne, Bleacher Report
• "For a decade they've been toying with and laughing at the rest of the league. The biggest bullies on the block." — Ralph Vacchiano, SNY
• "The Patriots run whatever they want, whenever they want, and they're not afraid to buck conventional wisdom. That strikes me as badass." — Joel A. Erickson, The Advocate
"Behind the glitz and glamour of having the game's greatest quarterback, the Patriots ranked among the league's top 10 scoring defenses each of the past five seasons, including No. 1 in 2016." — Ryan Wood, Green Bay Press-Gazette
What about the Bucs?
As you may have noticed, the 42 voters combined to include 16 NFL teams — but not the Bucs — and 42 different players — without any Bucs mentioned.
After all, coach Dirk Koetter didn't say he had a badass team, rather that he wanted one. And among our panel, there was certainly the potential for such in Tampa Bay:
• "The Buccaneers have all the elements to be a badass team this season: An improving defense and more offensive weapons for their young franchise quarterback. Make no mistake: Tampa Bay will challenge for the NFC South crown. Jameis Winston is on the verge of stardom." — Manish Mehta of the New York Daily News
Loren Elliott | Times
Loren Elliott | Times
• "The Bucs have some pretty high badass potential if everything breaks right for them this year. Offensively they have a wealth of weapons, several of which add more personality to those already on the roster, and their defense played with noticeably more speed and aggression in the second half of the 2016 season. If the offense clicks and the defense holds, they can definitely inherit that identity as a badass team." — Matt Harmon, NFL.com
• "I like the young talent the Bucs have on defense. The quickest way to become a badass team is to set the tone with a physical, fly-around defense and the Bucs are getting close." — Michael DiRocco, ESPN
Special thanks to our NFL panel: Matt Barrows, Sarah Barshop, Zach Berman, Dave Birkett, Eric Branch, Michael Cohen, Drew Davison, Michael DiRocco, Tyler Dunne, Jimmy Durkin, Eric Edholm, Joel Erickson, Zig Fracassi, Bob Glauber, Matt Harmon, Jamison Hensley, Larry Holder, Jeff Howe, Nicki Jhabvala, Jimmy Kempski, Nick Klopsis, Kristopher Knox, Paul Kuharsky, Matt Maiocco, Manish Mehta, Ryan O'Halloran, Jim Owczarski, Terez A. Paylor, Chad Reuter, Joe Rutter, Joe Schad, Frank Schwab, Brent Sobleski, Mike Tanier, Herbie Teope, Master Tesfatsion, Jim Thomas, Ralph Vacchiano, Andy Vasquez, James Walker, Charean Williams, Cameron Wolfe, Ryan Wood.