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 NFL.com 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.
#Bengals LB Vontaze Burfict’s apparent kick from his back to be reviewed for discipline in the standard process, source said. No suspension
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.”
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."
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).