The Broo View: It was easy for NFL to make an example of Vontaze Burfict

New rule, player's past both factors

The NFL cut Vontaze Burfict some slack, but the Bengals' Secretary of Defense is now the face of the NFL's new "defenseless receiver" rule.

Burfict's five-game suspension for leveling Kansas City Chiefs running back Anthony Sherman was reduced -- on appeal by Burfict -- to three games on Wednesday.

The gum-flapping on "hot take" sports TV has been nonstop since Sunday night when the suspension followed the latest in a long line of transgressions by Burfict.

He was caught on tape (and is there ever a good time for anyone to be caught on tape doing anything, let alone playing football?) delivering a hit to what seemed to be a defenseless receiver. The immediate reaction was expected. Burfict's laundry list of personal fouls and suspensions -- which had already cost the Bengals linebacker $800,000 in his career -- were resurrected like Lazarus.

One talking head called him the dirtiest player in the NFL. Another said the only way to reel in Burfict was to suspend him for the entire season.

Well, OK.

If you study the play, rewind it until your DVR falls off, it's apparent Sherman had no idea Burfict was going to unload on him. Yes, the ball is heading in Sherman's direction, but it's also sailing way above his head and he was clearly not the intended target.

WATCH Burfict (55) hit Chiefs FB Anthony Sherman in the lower right corner:

 

You can argue all day whether or not Sherman was five yards down the field, whether or not the ball was out of Chiefs' quarterback Alex Smith's hand, whether or not there was intent to harm on Burfict's part (I don't think there was, to be honest with you). What you can't argue about is this: the NFL has found religion on these kinds of plays.

There is a new rule in effect that deems all receivers and running backs not with a football as "defenseless players." The NFL was lying in the proverbial weeds waiting for a chance to make someone an example. Burfict played the role of the foil ... again.

Look, the NFL just tried to settle a lawsuit with former players who had sued them over mid-life concussion-related illnesses. You've heard of CTE, right? Chronic Traumatic Encephalopathy, the doctors call it. It comes from repeated blows to the head.

No, Burfict didn't hit Sherman in the head, but watch Sherman's head after Burfict hits him. It begins to rival Linda Blair's head in the movie "The Exorcist."

But there's a larger issue here.

Burfict's past behavior on the field was a mitigating factor. It already has been. Think about it, if Ezekiel Elliott got a six-game suspension for domestic violence -- by any reasonable person a much more egregious offense than what Burfict did -- what does that say about how the NFL now views Burfict?

In a court of law, a defendant is judged solely on the merits of the case. But if convicted, prior offenses usually determine the severity of the sentence. Burfict is building a laundry list when it comes to that.

Was it intentional? Did Burfict intentionally try to break the new rule? Who knows? What's inside a man's head is difficult enough to determine. Try figuring out what's inside his heart.

It's all speculation, on both sides of the argument. But I don't think he was intentionally trying to injure Sherman on that play. That may lead to the biggest issue -- can Vontaze Burfict change his approach to football, adhere to the new rules and still be an elite NFL linebacker? I think he can, but when asked this week if he'll change his style of play in light of this latest suspension, Burfict's one-word answer was "nope."

There is a fine line between playing outside of the rules and within them. For the moment, that line appears to be something that Vontaze Burfict has trouble defining.

Now then...

If you need further proof that the NFL needs to reduce the number of preseason games, aside from the injuries occurred by a number of teams this month, tune in tonight to watch the Bengals take on the Colts. Where else can you find grown men dressed up like football players who'll be working in the insurance industry next Tuesday?...

I think Bob Castellini needs to do something dramatic in this upcoming off-season with regard to his team's roster. Castellini needs an attention-grabbing player move. Right now, the Reds are caught somewhere between discouraged and apathetic in the fan base. Did you happen to catch any of the crowd shots from their games this week against the Mets? Most of the fans came disguised as empty seats.

Joey Votto remains one of the best players in the game. He's the best hitter in Reds history. The Reds have serviceable to good players in left field, third base, second base and catcher. Their everyday eight is good enough to be competitive within their division. But their starting pitching stinks and it's been odorous for the past three seasons.

Bryan Price said earlier this month that the Reds need to sign a veteran pitcher to center the young pitching staff. It's got to be better than that. The Reds need to sign a veteran pitcher who can win games, not just a middling, break-even pitcher (sorry Scott Feldman). More importantly, the Reds need to determine before next Opening Day which of these young pitchers are any good. Other than Luis Castillo, I don't think they have.

But Castellini needs to do something dramatic or he'll risk losing the attention of his fringe fan base. Possibly to something like FC Cincinnati again...

Don't judge Luke Fickell on what the Cincinnati Bearcats do this season. I don't think they'll be very good. But a lot of what Fickell is dealing with this season will be players left over from the Tommy Tuberville era. The atrophy from that will linger through 2017...

Little known fact, but singer and songwriter Bob Welch was once a member of Fleetwood Mac. The group went through a number of musicians before settling on its classic lineup. Welch split from the band in 1974 and found some success as a solo act. His big song was "Sentimental Lady," but I always like this Welch song a little better.

Written by Welch, it peaked at number 14 back in 1977. It was on his album "French Kiss."

While he commissioned his former band mates, Mick Fleetwood, Christine McVie and Lindsey Buckingham to play on certain album cuts, this live performance features Stevie Nicks on background vocals. On the original recording, it's Juice Newton who takes care of that.

Estranged from the core of the group for many years, Welch finally made peace with them, after he was not included in Fleetwood Mac's Rock and Roll Hall of Fame Induction.

Bob Welch died on June 7, 2012 from a self-inflicted gunshot wound ruled a suicide.

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