Some people have a hard time taking a hint. This seems to be especially true of Vontaze Burfict, the Oakland Raiders linebacker, who has repeatedly violated league rules on tackling people.
The NFL tried to be nice at first, just issuing a warning and a penalty. Then, it had to take more drastic measures when Burfict didn’t get the message, issuing a number of fines that cost the player millions of dollars. When that wasn’t enough, as became blatantly obvious this past Sunday, the league did the only thing left it could do. It suspended Burfict for the rest of the season, which spans 12 games.
The Raiders took on the Indianapolis Colts this past Sunday and Burfict was apparently not happy with the way things were going, even though his team was winning. In a gross violation of league rules, the linebacker, who was just named team captain, came in and hit Colts tight end Jack Doyle, essentially spearheading the defenseless player in the head with his helmet.
Burfict immediately knew he was in trouble, jogging off the field toward the showers even before the refs threw him out of the game.
The NFL reviewed the infraction after the contest and determined that Burfict’s long rap sheet of helmet-to-helmet violations was worthy of a major penalty. It immediately suspended him for the rest of the season, adding that he won’t be eligible for any pay during his cooling-off period.
Burfict received a letter about the suspension from Jon Runyan, NFL’s VP of football operations. It read, “There were no mitigating circumstances on this play. Your contact was unnecessary, flagrant and should have been avoided. For your actions, you were penalized and disqualified from the game. Following each of your previous rule violations, you were warned by me and each of the jointly-appointed officers that future violations would result in escalated accountability measures. However, you have continued to flagrantly abuse rules designated to protect yourself and your opponents from unnecessary risk.”
Doyle was in the process of scooping up the ball in open field and trying to stand from a kneeling position when Burfict came in. With zero protection around him, Doyle took all of Burfict’s power straight to his helmet, which could have led to permanent injury.
Burfict has already paid millions of dollars for similar breaches in the past seven years. He received fines and 13 suspensions during his time with the Cincinnati Bengals, two of which were for illegal hits. Those two resulted in the player being suspended for six games, and a second five-game suspension in 2017, for a separate infraction, was ultimately reduced to three after he appealed the league’s ruling.
The sad part is that Burfict doesn’t think he did anything wrong on Sunday. Anyone who has seen the video knows that he was out of line, but he doesn’t see it that way. He plans on appealing the ruling, but he most likely won’t find much sympathy given his track record.
Raiders coach Jon Gruden tried to play the part of the politician, refusing to take sides in defense of the league or of his first-year player. He said in comments following the game, “It’s a tough decision, it’s a tough call. I think it was a flag. It was very well documented that the league was going to review those plays this year in New York City. So that’s what happened and I’ll wait to hear what their reasoning was. But it was a penalty, he went in there with his head down, it was called and, unfortunately for us, it was an ejection.”
The suspension is the longest ever issued for unnecessary roughness by the league. However, it was one that Burfict earned all by himself and is fitting for the penalty. He needs some serious time off in order to learn better what the rules are and how to play according to them.