Vontaze Burfict didn’t get full exoneration, but his appeal to the NFL was somewhat successful.
Burfict, the Cincinnati Bengals linebacker who is well known for his dirty hits, had his suspension reduced from five games to three according to Ian Rapoport of the NFL Network.
Burfict and the Bengals argued that there was nothing illegal about his hit on Kansas City Chiefs fullback Anthony Sherman in Cincinnati’s second preseason game. Burfict blasted Sherman coming out of the backfield as Chiefs quarterback Alex Smith threw to another receiver well downfield. Burfict argued the hit was OK because he hit Sherman in the shoulder and not the head. The suspension seemed excessive, but Burfict is a repeat offender.
The Bengals and Burfict still might not be happy he got three games for a hit they thought was legal, but it’s better than five. Burfict will have to be on his best behavior when he comes back, because it’s a good guess that the NFL will be watching him closer than any other player, given his history.
Here’s the NFL’s announcement of the suspension:
VONTAZE BURFICT of the Cincinnati Bengals has been suspended without pay for the first three games of the 2017 regular season for repeated violations of safety-related playing rules.
The suspension, originally for five games, was imposed by NFL Vice President of Football Operations JON RUNYAN on Wednesday, August 23. Burfict appealed the discipline under the terms of the Collective Bargaining Agreement and JAMES THRASH, an NFL-NFLPA jointly appointed appeals officer, heard the appeal on Tuesday, August 29. Thrash today reduced the suspension to three games.
Burfict’s most recent safety-related rules violation came with 8:01 remaining in the first quarter of the August 19 game against the Kansas City Chiefs, when he made prohibited contact to the head and neck area of a defenseless player as well as forcible contact with his opponent away from the flow of the play.
Burfict’s actions violated Rule 12, Section 2, Article 7 (a) (2) which states that it is a foul if “a player initiates unnecessary contact against a player who is in a defenseless posture. (a) Players in a defenseless posture are: (2) A receiver running a pass route when the defender approaches from the side or behind. If the receiver becomes a blocker or assumes a blocking posture, he is no longer a defenseless player.”
His actions also violated Rule 12, Section 2, Article 6, (g), which prohibits “unnecessarily running, diving into, cutting, or throwing the body against or on a player who (1) is out of the play or (2) should not have reasonably anticipated such contact by an opponent, before or after the ball is dead;”
In the letter notifying Burfict of his suspension, Runyan wrote:
“This is not your first offense with respect to illegal hits to defenseless players; to the contrary, this incident is consistent with your pattern of egregious safety-related violations including your hit on a defenseless player during the 2015 Wild Card game and your hit against a Baltimore tight end away from the play on January 3, 2016…When players violate the rules intended to protect player safety on a repeated basis, and particularly when the violations carry with them a significant risk of injury to an opposing player…you must be held accountable for this continuing unacceptable conduct.”
Burfict will be eligible to return to the Bengals’ active roster on Monday, September 25 following the team’s September 24 game against the Green Bay Packers.
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