With so many well-publicized instances of NFL players getting into trouble with the law, it's easy for the league to have earned a reputation of employing criminals. High-visibility cases such as those involving Adam Jones, Michael Vick, Adrian Peterson and others have done nothing but reinforce this public perception.

Adam Jones

It's an unfair reputation, according to a new study. NFL arrest rates aren't nearly as high as many would believe -- and, in fact, in some years NFL arrest are only half as common as those of the general U.S. population.

The study, published by a criminologist at UT-Dallas, examined arrest rates in the NFL between 2000 and 2013 and found that most professional football players buck the league's reputation -- they never get into any legal trouble.

But that's not how many fans see the league -- in part because of the way information reaches them.

"What happens is, in our instantaneous world right now, you see a video, you see a tweet and it becomes real," says Dr. Alex Piquero, one of the study's authors. "But, one image of one person does not necessarily characterize every single player."

The study's findings were less flattering on the subject of violent crime, however. For six of the 14 years studied, the NFL had a higher arrest rate for violent crimes than the general population. That includes domestic violence arrests, which couldn't be separated into their own category based on the type of data researchers found.

A spike in violent crime arrests came between 2004 and 2008 -- a period of heightened activity that was not mirrored by the general population.

Since 2008, however, such arrests have come back under control, possibly due to the league's decision to build clauses into contracts that put salary bonuses at risk in the event of a violent crime arrests.

Even so, the study's authors recommended that the NFL track their league's arrest data and provide sensitivity training to athletes. We'll see if the league chooses to listen.

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Best, Worst NFL Team Arrest Rates



Adrian Peterson is the poster-child, but the Vikings have a genuinely systemic problem: Their 32 arrests in the past 10 years are tied for the league lead. As fans grow impatient with illegal activity among players, franchises like Minnesota's may feel the heat for their role.



Tied with the Vikings is the Denver Broncos, which has had as many arrests since 2005 as the NFL has teams. Despite the well-known locker room presences of Tim Tebow and then Peyton Manning, Broncos players have a knack for finding trouble.



With their recent streak of playoff appearances, you can't quite call them the Bungles. But that string of successes has come amid plenty of off-field problems: Cincinnati's NFL team has had 31 arrests since 2005.



Pacman Jones may be one of the team's most notorious criminal problems, but he's far from alone. In the past 10 years, a Titans player has been arrested 30 times.



It's fitting that a franchise that flies a pirate flag at games would be on the lesser end of the player-arrest spectrum. The Bucs have struggled with off-field problems in the last decade, tallying 26 arrests.



Carolina is one of three teams with only nine arrests in 10 years. Only five of the NFL's 32 teams have averaged fewer than one arrest per year.



The Cowboys can't seem to put it all together and make a run at the Super Bowl, but their off-field distractions aren't a major detractor. The franchise has just nine arrests to its name since 2005.



Maybe it's the steady leadership of coach Bill Belichick, who has always had a no-nonsense approach to being a team leader. If so, his system is working: the Patriots have the third-best mark in the league with only nine arrests in the past decade.



On the downside, rookie head coach Bill O'Brien inherited a team that went 2-14 last season. On the bright side, the locker room hasn't been crawling with bad influences. Houston has had only eight arrests in the past 10 years, the second-best mark in the NFL.



That's right: The least criminally offensive NFL team can be found in Arizona. The Cardinals franchise can claim just seven arrests in the past 10 years.

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