CINCINNATI - The NFL will not suspend Vontaze Burfict for making contact with an official during Sunday's game in Nashville, according to an insider report. However, the league will review the incident for a possible fine.
#Bengals LB Vontaze Burfict will not be suspended for making contact with the referee in yesterday’s game, I’m told. It’ll will be reviewed using the standard process for a possible fine.
— Ian Rapoport (@RapSheet) November 13, 2017
Burfict had no comment in the Bengals locker room Monday, while head coach Marvin Lewis and defensive coordinator Paul Guenther repeated what they said they told him: Officials will target Burfict because of his rap sheet, and he doesn't do the Bengals any good being suspended or ejected.
"I've been saying it: He's going to be held to a different set of standards because of his past," Guenther said. "So he's got to understand that. He does us no good when he's sitting in the locker room for half a ballgame."
Lewis also said he has warned Burfict about jawing with opponents and running the risk of having an official caught in the middle.
"I've explained this to Vontaze," Lewis said Monday. "He understands that. (Officials) have a job to do and they're going to separate players. ... So get back to the huddle and get going, and that's the most important thing. We don't need to jaw with anyone after the play, any of the players."
An ESPN report quoted an unidentified Bengals player saying officials have provoked Burfict, but Lewis said "it would shock me" if that were true.
With his long history of league suspensions and fines, a suspension seemed likely for Burfict after he brushed an official's arm Sunday, especially since Marshawn Lynch of the Raiders got a one-game ban for making contact with an official last month. Lynch came off the bench to confront the official, so that might have made the difference.
But that doesn't mean Burfict won't get a huge fine for the two personal foul penalties he got leading up to his encounter with down judge Jake Bergman.
You can say Bergman overreacted when he threw the flag on Burfict for casually brushing his arm away on the sideline. But if Burfict doesn’t know by now not to put his hands on an official, he ought to. C'mon.
Besides, it was the two personal fouls - only two plays apart - that got Burfict ejected from Sunday’s 24-20 loss at Tennessee. The league put in that rule in 2016: two personal fouls means automatic ejection.
Burfict even got away with stepping on a Titans player twice in a pileup after one of those plays.
In the end, Burfict’s staunchest defender, Lewis, couldn’t absolve him this time.
"Sometimes what happens is you push back and you touch an official," Lewis said after the game. "You can't do that. He knows better and we pay a price. We pay a price because it hurts us when it's on the field that way and then he's not on the field."
At first, Burfict pleaded his innocence, gesturing as he walked along the sideline and swinging his right arm as if to say, “This is all I did!”
After that, though, Burfict took his good-natured time leaving the field. When he did, he was hardly contrite, laughing and rubbing his fingers and thumbs in a two-handed Johnny Manziel “money” salute. He waved at the crowd and high-fived a fan before walking into the tunnel.
It was Burfict's best performance of the season.
— Preston Penn (@TheRealPres10) November 12, 2017
Burfict’s trouble started in the second quarter when ran into Titans running back DeMarco Murray after Murray had already been pushed out of bounds. Burfict knocked Murray down two steps across the sideline, though Burfict made it look like he tried to avoid Murray at the last second and just couldn't get out of the way.
That was Personal Foul No. 1.
Personal Foul No. 2 came just two plays later. A scrum of Bengals was in the process of pushing Titans quarterback Marcus Mariota out of bounds when Burfict flew into the back of them like a battering ram.
As the players unpiled, Burfict stood over Titans guard Brian Schwenke and stepped on Schwenke's arm twice before Titans tackle Jack Conklin came over and pushed away Burfict with his left hand. Burfict stumbled backward two steps, then stepped toward Conklin. As Conklin helped Schwenke up, Bergman, an official with 26 years' NFL experience, must have feared trouble because he stepped between Conklin and Burfict and extended his left arm across Burfict's chest to block Burfict from engaging Conklin.
That’s when Burfict brushed Conklin’s arm away.
#Bengals LB Vontaze Burfict was ejected for making contact with an game official — and you have to think a fine or suspension is coming.
— Ian Rapoport (@RapSheet) November 12, 2017
It might have been seen as harmless coming from any other player, but not Burfict, the NFL’s Public Enemy No. 1. The linebacker has been among NFL's most suspended and most frequently fined players. He has started the past two seasons under three-game suspensions for illegal hits.
With Burfict's history of run-ins with the league, Sunday's infractions could have fallen under the "escalating discipline" policy. Burfict originally got a five-game suspension for his illegal preseason hit on Chiefs fullback Anthony Sherman but Burfict appealed it down to three. And, as ESPN pointed out, Burfict has already been fined more than $800,000 for violating league rules.
Burfict got a $12,154 fine last month when he appeared to kick Steelers fullback Roosevelt Nix in the head after Nix had blocked him to the ground during an Oct. 22 game.
Burfict haters had a field day on Twitter and Reddit mocking Burfict and the Bengals Sunday, especially with Burfict's latest crimes coming just one week after wide receiver A.J. Green put a choke hold on Jacksonville cornerback Jalen Ramsey and was ejected. The NFL didn't suspend Green, a first-time offender, but fined him $42,000.
According to ESPN, Burfict will get a minimum fine of $30,387 for a first-offense contact with an official. A fine for the personal fouls will be extra.
ESPN, though, gave Burfict the benefit of the doubt and said the NFL was right to not suspend him for "an instinctive swat" at an official's arm. But letting him go lightly this time means the penalty will be much more severe if there's a next time.
Burfict did not talk to reporters after Sunday's game, so we did not hear him publicly apologize to his teammates like Green did last week. You'd think Bengals players would be tired of Burfict's antics going back to his hit to Steelers wide receiver Antonio Brown's head that cost them a wild-card victory in 2016.
But since Mike Brown rewarded Burfict with a $38-million, three-year contract extension in September, teammates and fans will just have to be amazed by what he does next.