Marvin Lewis gives his interpretation of Vontaze Burfict's suspension-inducing hit

Linebacker appealing suspension
Posted at 2:18 PM, Aug 29, 2017
and last updated 2017-08-29 19:07:11-04

CINCINNATI -- Did you think the Bengals might be ready to move on from Vontaze Burfict after his latest suspension?

What Marvin Lewis said about the incident should have wiped that out of your mind.

“Possible suspension,” Lewis said when the question came up. He then said the Bengals' statement issued Sunday would stand.

“I’m not going to voice my own opinion in here,” he said.

But he couldn’t resist saying his piece when pressed at his session with the media.

“I’ll sit out there and ask the questions and you guys can say how ridiculous it is,” Lewis said.

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

Burfict was suspended for a hit put on Kansas City Chiefs fullback Anthony Sherman. Lewis contended it was a legal hit because of where Sherman was on the field.

“(He’s) in the same parallel line that the tight end and fullback are,” Lewis said. “That’s the thing. The quarterback sets his feet and pumps. They’re on the same parallel line. So, again, sometimes in interpretation things get lost. Hopefully, Vontaze will prevail.”

Doesn’t it make a difference that the ball is still in quarterback’s hand?

“All that would seem to make sense if we understood football from the perimeter point of view,” Lewis said. “If everybody understood how the linebackers and secondary people play football, that would all make sense.”

Burfict is appealing the suspension. It would be a huge blow to the Bengals to lose him for five games. He is the team’s best linebacker and the energy and toughness he provides is a huge boost to the defense.

Burfict has been suspended eight times for illegal hits. If this suspension holds, his fine total will approach $2 million, including nearly a third of his $3.75 million salary this year.

If a guy’s been fined that kind of money, will he ever learn? One can make the argument Burfict won’t. He delivered two incredible hits on Giovani Bernard -- a teammate coming off a major injury -- during training camp.

But Lewis says Burfict has evolved in his six years in the league.

“I think Vontaze has changed quite a bit,” Lewis said. “I think he has changed tremendously. He’s changed a lot. The very next play the quarterback scrambles. Vontaze leaps over when Alex Smith slides. The very next play after that, the back goes to the flat. He’s going down for a first down. Vontaze is in coverage and instead of diving in or spearing in, he dives over him and goes out of bounds.”

Lewis was defending Burfict based on that one play. Burfict was suspended because he hit a defenseless player and it fell under the unnecessary roughness umbrella.

“The interpretation is: Is it away from the play?” Lewis said. “Did Vontaze hit from the back or from the side or does he put his shoulder into the number of the Kansas City Chief player? He’d have to be facing to put his number in there.”

Fellow linebacker Vincent Rey was surprised by the suspension.

“We understand where the NFL’s going,” Rey said. “They’re trying to protect players. It seemed like it was within five yards. It seemed like it was a shoulder. It wasn’t leading with his helmet. Those are just things off the cuff, from watching the film, seeing it live.

“I’m expecting it at the very least to be reduced.”

Players are shown video of the type of plays that will draw penalties, fines and suspensions. Lewis, again, said the hit on Sherman was not the type the NFL is trying to outlaw.

“This is not the kind of play that was shown...,” he said. “This stuff happens in football. A player knows when he runs across the field he has a chance to be chucked.”

Burfict is a ferocious hitter. Lewis thinks that weighs into the equation.

“My opinion, Vontaze has changed,” Lewis said. “But he’s a 250-pound man that hits like dynamite. It’s like getting hit by a cement truck. And that’s the way he plays. He’s got great hip explosion. That’s why he’s the player he is. The dynamics of his body are such that he hits like a 300-pound man.”

John Fay is a freelance sports columnist; this column represents his opinion. Contact him at