The Vontaze Burfict Suspension: The History and the Verdict

By Bryan Dietzler

By now, most every NFL fan is aware of the suspension that Raiders’ linebacker Vontaze Burfict received thanks to a helmet to helmet hit on a defenseless player. The hit came in the Raiders’ game against the Indianapolis Colts when Jack Doyle caught a pass and was tackled. Burfict came in and hit Doyle in the head with his helmet.

Not only did he ring Doyle’s bell but he rang the bell of the league and they handed down a record suspension, suspending him for the rest of the season.

Burfict plans to appeal and we do not yet know what the outcome of that appeal is.

Did Burfict deserve the punishment that he received? Why would he get such a stiff punishment?

To answer these questions, you have to know what Burfict’s history is. Coming out of Arizona State, Burfict was known to have issues both on and off the field. His draft stock fell because he had those problems.

Weak combine numbers and the problems on and off the field made it so he was not even drafted. This was surely shocking to Burfict but knowing how he was, this should have been expected.

Burfict was signed by the Cincinnati Bengals and started his career there. His first season was relatively quiet but, after that, things went downhill.

In year two, he was fined $31,000 for hitting a defenseless receiver and taking a shot at another player’s groin. But his play on the field earned him more than fines. He made the Pro Bowl in his second season and looked like one of the better linebackers in the NFL.

Had the NFL made a mistake in their thinking about Burfict? Was Burfict “perfect”?

In 2014, Burfict was fined $25,000 for twisting the ankles of Greg Olsen and Cam Newton both of the Carolina Panthers.

He didn’t play that much in 2014 due to injuries.

In 2015, Burfict paid out a total of $69,454 in fines for a hit to Pittsburg Steelers quarterback Ben Roethlisberger as well as two other unnecessary roughness penalties. However, his biggest and most famous moment of unnecessary roughness came in the playoffs against the Steelers.

Burfict hit Steelers’ wide receiver Antonio Brown so hard he knocked him unconscious and he had to leave the game. The hit earned Burfict an unnecessary roughness penalty.

After the 2015 season, the NFL decided to suspect Burfict for the first three games of the 2016 season because of his penchant for risking the safety of other players. It looked like he might have learned his lesson because his 2016 season was a good one and he didn’t get in any trouble for risking player safety.

In 2017, Burfict blindside blocked Anthony Sherman of the Kansas City Chiefs in the second preseason game and received a five-game suspension for what he did. He appealed the suspension and it was reduced to three games. Still, in 2017, Burfict received a $12,154 fine for kicking a player. He was also ejected in another game for two personal fouls.

Ironically, Burfict got a taste of his own medicine when Steeler’s wide receiver JuJu Smith-Schuster blindside blocked him and gave him a concussion.

In 2018, Burfict received a different kind of suspension, this one for failing a drug test. He was sidelined for four games. In the sixth week of the season, Burfict delivered a blow to the Steelers’ Brown again but instead of hurting Brown, Burfict ended up injuring a teammate, Jessie Bates, and he was kept out the rest of the game. He earned himself a $112,000 fine for hits on the Steelers’ Brown and James Connor.

The Bengals let him walk this past March.

He ended up with the Raiders this offseason.

Then he hit Doyle and the rest is history.

You can see with a pattern of behavior like Burfict has, it’s only right that he was suspended for as long as he has been. I wouldn’t even reduce the suspension if I was the powers that be. I would let him sit for the rest of the season. His career is probably over anyway as not that many teams are going to want to touch him with his problems as well as his age.

It’s likely that Burfict’s career in the NFL is over.

So yes, Burfict did deserve the suspension that he received and should be suspended for the rest of the season. If the NFL continues to work the way that it has been, he will probably not see the field again.

No one wants a player like that on their team.

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