CINCINNATI -- Bengals LB Vontaze Burfict's suspension has been reduced from five games to three, the NFL announced.
WATCH Burfict (55) hit Chiefs FB Anthony Sherman in the lower right corner:
Burfict was suspended for a hit on Chiefs fullback Anthony Sherman during their preseason game Aug. 19. 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).
Burfict appealed the suspension and got a two-game reprieve from former James Thrash, an NFL-NFL Players Association appeals officer and former wide receiver.
It's the second straight season Burfict has been suspended for the first three games. He was punished last season for his hit to Antonio Brown's head during a 2015 playoff loss to the Steelers. That punishment was due in part to his history of egregious hits.
In a letter to Burfict this week, the league noted his pattern of hits on defenseless players, including one on Ravens tight end Maxx Williams that drew a $50,000 fine. The letter, from Jon Runyan, NFL vice president of football operations, said in part:
"This is not your first offense with respect to illegal hits to defenseless players; to the contrary, this incident is consistent with your pattern of egregious safety-related violations including your hit on a defenseless player during the 2015 Wild Card game and your hit against a Baltimore tight end away from the play on January 3, 2016 ... When players violate the rules intended to protect player safety on a repeated basis, and particularly when the violations carry with them a significant risk of injury to an opposing player ... you must be held accountable for this continuing unacceptable conduct."
Burfict has been suspended eight times for illegal hits.
The Bengals staunchly defended Burfict, contending his hit on Sherman wasn't a technical violation of the league's rules. Sherman was coming out of the backfield on a throw down the field to a different player when Burfict lowered his shoulder and leveled him.
Burfict will miss the Bengals' season opener against Baltimore and games against Houston and Green Bay.
The suspension will cost Burfict $703,125.