No Precedent for Potential Burfict Suspension

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Jan 9, 2016; Cincinnati, OH, USA; Cincinnati Bengals outside linebacker Vontaze Burfict (55) reacts on the sidelines during the second quarter against the Pittsburgh Steelers in the AFC Wild Card playoff football game at Paul Brown Stadium. Mandatory Credit: David Kohl-USA TODAY Sports
Jan 9, 2016; Cincinnati, OH, USA; Cincinnati Bengals outside linebacker Vontaze Burfict (55) reacts on the sidelines during the second quarter against the Pittsburgh Steelers in the AFC Wild Card playoff football game at Paul Brown Stadium. Mandatory Credit: David Kohl-USA TODAY Sports /
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Vontaze Burfict could be facing a potential suspension for his hit on Antonio Brown, but history says that the linebacker should not be suspended.

Vontaze Burfict garnered headlines for an outstanding yet reckless performance in the Bengals’ Wild Card loss to the Pittsburgh Steelers. While he was one of the key contributors who helped Cincinnati claw back into a crucial playoff game, his lack of composure was one of the biggest reasons for the Bengals’ demise.

Burfict played a tremendous game, tallying six tackles, two tackles for loss, two quarterback hits, a pass defense, a forced fumble and an interception. But a critical unnecessary roughness penalty for a questionable hit on Antonio Brown cost Burfict and his team in a big way, ultimately leading to a Steelers victory.

Burfict’s hit definitely wasn’t clean, but the referees set the tone by not calling a penalty on Ryan Shazier earlier in the game for a punishing helmet-to-helmet hit on Giovani Bernard which gave the running back a concussion.

An argument can be made that Burfict, who was running full-speed during the play, slowed down and didn’t intentionally target Brown. It’s a pretty strong argument, considering that Brown was high in the air, less than a second or so before Burfict hit him. That being said, the penalty was still somewhat warranted.

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Because of the way Jim Nantz and Phil Simms called the game, labeling Burfict as dirty and not mentioning anything about the Steelers for equally violent actions, fans quickly began calling Burfict a thug and calling for a suspension. On Sunday afternoon, news broke that Burfict could even

face suspension

for his hit on Brown.

But let’s be very clear. While Burfict has somewhat of a history of questionable plays and his hit was definitely not the cleanest play of the year, it does not warrant a suspension.

Why not? Let’s use history to determine that.

December 20, 2015. The most recent day in which a player was suspended for on-field violence. Odell Beckham intentionally launched himself at Josh Norman‘s helmet, seconds after the play had come to an end. It was the dirtiest play of the 2015 season, and it cost Beckham a one-game suspension. Is Burfict’s hit anywhere near as deserving of a suspension? I’ll let you decide.

The suspension before Beckham’s? Aqib Talib was suspended a game for intentionally poking a player in the eye. Before that? You’d have to go back to December 29, 2014, when Ndamukong Suh stomped on Aaron Rodgers‘ leg and a week before that, when his teammate, Dominic Raiola, stomped on Ego Ferguson‘s leg.

The next-most recent offender was Brandon Meriweather, who was suspended multiple times for repeatedly violating the NFL’s helmet-to-helmet policy.

Burfict’s tackle doesn’t come close to any of these plays, and it wasn’t even the dirtiest play of the night. At the end of the day, Burfict’s arguments against suspension are as follows:

  1. Burfict used his shoulder to complete the tackle.
  2. Burfict aimed as low as he could to hit Brown, who was previously high in the air.
  3. Burfict could have inflicted a lot more damage, had he wanted to.

Vontaze Burfict may be a repeat offender–and he may be a heel to many NFL teams and players, but this hit is nowhere near warranting of a suspension. He may have a past record (six penalties in 2015, four for unnecessary roughness), but so do many players in the NFL. Football is a violent sport, so penalties happen.

So for the sake of argument, here are a few players who also have a history of violent play who haven’t been suspended:

Brandon Browner: 21 penalties in 2015, three for unnecessary roughness

Jerry Hughes: 14 penalties in 2015, two for unnecessary roughness, two for unsportsmanlike conduct, one for a personal foul, one for a facemask and one for roughing the passer

Cody Wallace: 12 penalties in 2015, three for unnecessary roughness–and he’s an offensive lineman

Von Miller: Nine penalties in 2015, one for unnecessary roughness, three for roughing the passer

Michael Bennett: Eight penalties in 2015, two for unnecessary roughness, two for roughing the passer

Josh Norman: Seven penalties in 2015, two for unnecessary roughness, two for unsportsmanlike conduct

Odell Beckham: Five penalties in 2015, three for unnecessary roughness

Next: Bengals loss devastating, but not a new low

There’s no reason to suspend the Bengals’ superstar linebacker. A fine, however, isn’t out of the question.

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