If you hear the NFL tell it, they remain committed to player safety. Like a deranged OSHA inspector, feverishly searching for a scintilla of hazard, the NFL fancies itself as the guardian of player health. Yet, they allow certain players to continue playing after attempting to injure opponents. Granted, football is a violent game and contact generates injuries. However, when players like Vontaze Burfict wantonly engage in dangerous behavior and the league does little, they are telling the players that some appear above the law.
During his second year (2013), the league fined Burfict $31,000 for demolishing a defenseless receiver and striking an opponent in the area. Now, defenseless receivers can often be a nebulous concept. Meanwhile, hitting someone in the groin suggest dirty behavior. Now, you would think the NFL would regard the jewel-hitting as the first strike. Unfortunately, they do not.
The following season found Burfict trying to play the role of amateur chiropractor. Again, the league fined him for twisting the ankles of Cam Newton and Greg Olsen. In honesty, the league once again failed to send a strong message. As a result, Burfict continued the shenanigans.
After the Carolina fine, Burfict racked up suspensions for multiple hits and a PED violation. Granted, Burfict is an extremely talented middle linebacker. When he focuses on his job and not attempting to injure, he ranks among the league’s best.
For his long-term dedication to the Bengals, Marvin Lewis deserves credit. Under his watch, he turned an abysmal franchise into a perennial playoff contender. Yet for all of this praise, Lewis needs condemnation for allowing a player to roam free, unchecked, injuring others. Vontaze Burfict hurts players on purpose. If you watch the film, he goes out of his way to destroy people, outside of the rules.
When Burfict decided to launch his helmet into Antonio Brown’s head, leading 16-15, Lewis needed to cut him on the spot. Yet, the play extended the drive and Pittsburgh won 18-16. Burfict cost his team a playoff game. Forget the league suspended him for three meaningless games; they set the precedent back in 2014. Meanwhile, Marvin Lewis sat there, hands folded and keeps Burfict employed, with no regard for opponent safety. Over seven years, the league fined Burfict twelve times, totaling four million dollars. However, the Bengals inked Burfict to another contract extension. Therefore, when Juju Smith Schuster peeled back on Burfict, no one cried or felt any sympathy. The NFL is a fellowship, or it portends to be. The goal should always remain to leave the field on your own two feet. In his zest to keep his job, Marvin Lewis allows the dirtiest play in a generation to roam the middle.
The Bengals and Steelers share a decades-old beef. From Hines Ward crushing Keith Rivers to Kimo Von Oelhoffen destroying Carson Palmer’s knee, these teams detest each other. Yet, Burfict appears to serve as the vortex of dirty in this divisional feud. Last Sunday, Burfict decided to meet Antonio Brown’s brain again. This time he dotted Brown with an elbow. At this writing, the league did not fine Burfict. In addition, evidence exists that Burfict carried an offseason grudge that included references to Ryan Shazier and his medical condition.
Until the NFL does the right thing, which should be void Burfict’s deal and ban him, players will continue to suffer unnecessary injuries. In an era of alleged player safety, Burfict’s continued career offers up nothing but a middle finger any claims of safety.