CINCINNATI - Vontaze Burfict's brush with an official turned out to be no-harm, no-fine in the NFL's eyes.
Even though Burfict was ejected, the league had decided not to fine the Bengals linebacker for brushing away a down judge's arm during last Sunday's game at Tennessee, the NFL reported.
Since the NFL doesn't explain when it doesn't punish a player (only when it does), the only conclusion to draw is that league officials decided the contact was accidental or so minor that it didn't warrant an ejection in the first place.
Otherwise, Burfict would have received at least the minimum fine of $30,387 for a first-offense contact with an official.
So if there's any punishment handed out from Burfict's ejection, it may be directed at the officiating crew or down judge Jake Bergman, who threw the flag on Burfict.
It took the NFL less than 24 hours to decide Burfict's contact didn't merit a suspension.
#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 also apparently escaped a fine for a personal foul for a late hit on Titans QB Marcus Mariota that led to the incident with Bergman. That followed a late hit on RB DeMarcus Murray two plays earlier.
Burfict even got away with stepping on a Titans player twice in a pileup after the hit on Mariota.
Here's what happened:
A scrum of Bengals was in the process of pushing 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 casually brushed Conklin’s arm away and Bergman flagged him.
By vindicating Burfict, the NFL did an 180-degree turn on one of its most suspended and most frequently fined players. Burfict has started the past two seasons under three-game suspensions for illegal hits.
After Sunday's game, Bengals head coach Marvin Lewis and defensive coordinator Paul Guenther said they had warned Burfict that he had a target on his back and he needed to avoid putting himself in a position that might lead to run-ins with opposing players or officials.
One unidentified teammate accused officials of baiting Burfict by cursing him and contacting him, according to ESPN. Lewis said he doubted tha happens.
Nevertheless, 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.