Column: No suspension for Vontaze Burfict? Why not?

Posted at 3:45 PM, Oct 23, 2017
and last updated 2017-10-23 18:42:12-04

PITTSBURGH – Bengals linebacker Vontaze Burfict could still be in trouble with the NFL again but he won't be suspended after appearing to kick a Steelers player in the head Sunday, according to multiple media reports.

Ian Rappaport of NFL Network and seemed to contradict himself in a tweet by reporting that the NFL would  "review the incident for discipline in the standard process,"  yet Burfict would not be suspended.

Soon after, though, ESPN tweets followed suit. 

For anybody else, the NFL might be forgiving for a kick in the head in the heat of battle.  But for Burfict, with his history and the NFL's proclivity for disciplining and suspending him?

I'd wait for an official announcement from the NFL before I put him in the game plan for the Colts.

Burfict put himself - and his team's fortunes - in jeopardy again when he appeared to kick Steelers fullback Roosevelt Nix in the head after the second play Sunday.

Steelers running back Le’Veon Bell said Burfict’s “gotta go” after retweeting video of the incident.

“That’s not football AT ALL!!” Bell said.

Nix had blocked Burfict into a pile and Burfict responded by kicking both feet at Nix while on his back, the video shows.

Line judge Mark Perlman was close to the play but declined to call a penalty.

"The ref said he didn't see it. So, just keep on playing," Nix said.

But that doesn’t mean the NFL can’t suspend Burfict again.

Burfict was suspended for the first three games this season for less, some might say. Burfict's crime was hitting a Chiefs running back in preseason as he came across the field on a crossing pattern. In the old day, fans would call that a good hit. Burfict didn’t draw a penalty flag, but because the quarterback was throwing downfield away from the contact, the NFL determined that Burfict had violated the new rule that considers a receiver a defenseless player.

Burfict has a history with the Steelers, including a sideline tackle on Bell that ripped up his knee and ended Bell’s 2015 season, and a helmet-to-helmet hit on Antonio Brown in the wild-card game a month later that resulted in a three-game suspension for Burfict to start the 2016 season.

Bell complained about Burfict’s kick in the locker room after Sunday’s game, according to KDKA in Pittsburgh.

“My fullback got kicked in the face. That’s just not football to me,” Bell said. “I don’t think that’s a respectable play, For me, I just like to play respectable football. Whether you play tough or whatever it is, within the play, it is all fine. After the play, unnecessary things, trying to hurt people, I don’t like that.”

ESPN raised speculation of another suspension for Burfict:

Although a penalty might have been in order, typically a kick would not raise the possibility of a suspension. But Burfict has already served two career suspensions for late or illegal hits; each came in the first three games in each of the past two seasons. Burfict also has been fined more than $800,000 for rules infractions.

NFL policy calls for a substantial escalation of discipline if incidents continue. The policy states: "A player who is a repeat offender should expect more severe discipline, and fines third offenses and beyond in the same season or based on prior seasons' violations will be established on a case-by-case basis, and may increase substantially."

The NFL cited Burfict for "repeated violations of safety-related playing rules" for the hit on Brown that cost the Bengals a playoff victory in January 2016.

Burfict was originally suspended five games for the hit on Chiefs fullback Anthony Sherman, but the NFL reduced it to three after Burfict appealed.

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

The league said Burfict violated two rules on the play: making unnecessary contact against a player in a defenseless posture (Rule 12, Section 2, Article 7 of NFL rulebook) and hitting a player who is out of a play (Rule 12, Section 2, Article 6).

SEE NFL Rule 12

Over the years, Burfict has also been accused of dirty hits against Ravens tight end Maxx Williams, former Patriots tight end Martellus Bennett, and former Patriots running back LeGarrette Blount.

So what did Burfict do after kicking Nix? He pointed at Nix like a bully does after he throws the first punch and tries to blame the other kid for starting it.

For all the trouble he's gotten himself and his team in, Burfict hasn't learned his lesson and he never will. 

So why is the NFL going soft on him now?

Unless the NFL decides Burfict didn't mean to kick Nix - or it blames Nix for putting his head in the way - it's hard to see how the league is being consistent by not suspending him again.