It’s the last week of August, which means the fall traditions are upon us. The days are getting shorter, the evenings a little cooler. The kids are back to school or heading back shortly, the NFL is around the corner, and Vontaze Burfict is facing a multi-game suspension. He started the 2016 season with a three-game suspension for his hit on Antonio Brown in the playoffs and according to reports, the Bengals linebacker is looking at starting the 2017 season with 5-game suspension for his hit on Chiefs fullback Anthony Sherman last week. Classic. You can set your watch to it. The calendar turns to September and Burfict takes a seat on the bench for a cheap shot.
And that was a totally unnecessary shot. He laid out Sherman and the ball was thirty yards down field. It might not have been against the rules back in the day, but this is a different game. And you’re Vontaze Burfict.
The Bengals released a statement that the team is “aware of the NFL’s letter to Vontaze regarding a play in last weekend’s game. The film shows that the hit was legal, that Vontaze engaged his opponent from the front, and that contact was shoulder-to-chest. The Club will support Vontaze in the appeal process.”
I get why he, and they, are appealing. It’s a new rule designed to protect players who are running pass routes and maybe you can argue that five games was a little stiff. And that if it were anyone else, we wouldn’t even be having this conversation. But it’s not anyone else. It’s Vontaze Burfict.
Clearly being suspended three games last year didn’t get him to change. It’s getting to the point where Burfict is starting to embody that Steve Spurrier quote about playing Georgia in the second game of the season because you can always count on them having two or three players suspended.
He’s not just a repeat offender, he’s a consistent offender. A repeat offender implies that he’s done something like this multiple times, when in reality, he seems to do this all the time. This is who he is. He’s been hit with 16 flags and nearly 800 grand in fines in five seasons, and that doesn’t include lost wages for suspensions. There are habitual linesteppers and then there’s Burfict who is a line-stomper. And a leg stomper.
The dude started a fight in his own training camp this year for a low blow tackle on running back Gio Bernard. The same Gio Bernard who is good for more than 1,000 all-purpose yards per season and missed six games last year with a torn left ACL. Think about that. How insane do you have to be to go low on your own starting running back who is coming back from a torn ACL? If he’s doing that to teammates, and given his track record, do you really want to be on the side of saying that Burfict is a good dude who just made a mistake against the Chiefs?
Burfict isn’t even admitting that he made a mistake. He told the Bengals website that “We feel like this was a legal hit. I hit him in the shoulder. I hit hard, so it may have looked like I hit him in the head, but it was the shoulder. I helped him up and he said he was good and I asked if he was good on the next series and he said, ‘Yeah, that was a legal hit.’”
And on top of that, he texted ESPN’s Josina Anderson to say, “The NFL and Runyan are ridiculous.” Runyan is NFL VP of Operations Jon Runyan. And he also said, “Anytime u have to slow down play to see if (it’s illegal) maybe not how game should be judged.”
I don’t know if the NFL and Runyan are ridiculous. But you know what is ridiculous? Getting suspended for three games to start last season and then put yourself in position to be suspended for five games at the start of this season. Maybe he’s right. Maybe five games is too much. And maybe he shouldn’t even be suspended at all, but when you have the history that Burfict has, you’re not going to get the benefit of the doubt at all. That left a long, long time ago. He’s a walking suspension waiting to happen. The only games where he isn’t at risk of picking up a flag or a suspension are the ones where he’s already suspended
He’ll argue that he’s a target. Right. And since you know it, and know that they’re looking at you, maybe you stop cheap-shotting guys and change the way you play.
If the guy is looking for sympathy, he’s not getting it here. But more importantly, he’s not going to get it from the league office. Good luck with that appeal. You’re going to need it.
And one piece of advice; do what you want with it; stop trying to put guys to sleep who are defenseless and 30 yards from ball. Nothing good has ever come of that.