Vontaze Burfict has No Place in This NFL

By: G.Stryker

I enjoy watching the game of football.  I enjoy defense, and I love hard hits. I respect players that can play the game as hard as possible within the rules, but we now have a player that doesn’t care about those rules.  In a league that has gone out of its way to protect players and try and make the game safer, there still lies one outlier that could care less. That man is Vontaze Burfict.  A defender with all of the talent in the world, can cover sideline to sideline, and makes game changing plays by correctly diagnosing what the offense is running, also thinks you have to win by taking out the other team’s best players.

Burfict had first round potential, but went undrafted into the NFL because of the way he played the game.  In college he head-butts a quarterback and serves a suspension for it, pushes a ref, and racked up 22 personal fouls.  In three years at Arizona State University Burfict also achieved 228 tackles, 22.5 tackles for a loss (TFL), 7 sacks, 11 passes defended, 4 forced fumbles and an interception.  Pretty good numbers to go with excellent tape, yet every team listed this talent as undraftable. Failing his drug test for the combine didn’t help his draft stock, and then bombing in every drill cemented the fact that this talented player wouldn’t get drafted at all.

So the Cincinnati Bengals took a flyer on him as an undrafted rookie free agent, and he was starting by the third week of the 2012 season.  He’s been their starter ever since, and it seemed like the Bengals’ risk of picking up Burfict, payed off. No infractions his rookie season.  Then in his second season Burfict became a first team all pro racking up 177 tackles (115 solo), 9 TFLs, 3 sacks 8 passes defensed, 2 fumble recoveries, and a touchdown.  These are all career highs, and also the last time Vontaze played an entire 16 game season.

During his 2nd year, with all of his playmaking on the field, his propensity for making questionable plays, started to rear its ugly head.  In a game against Green Bay, Burfict punched TE Ryan Taylor in the nuts after a play and drew a retaliation penalty.  He ended the game with a head shot on WR James Jones, and drew fines for both infractions.  In a game against Buffalo, he had 3 personal fouls, the most egregious was trying to rip RB Fred Jackson’s helmet off by the face mask.  Then against the Jets he earns another fine for spearing WR Stephen Hill.  

2014, in a game against Carolina, Burfict twisted the ankles of Cam Newton and Greg Olson, after both were already ruled down.  Both players were recovering from ankle injuries.  He ends the game by targeting Kelvin Benjamin’s head, giving him a concussion.  Ravens WR Torrey Smith was also targeted during a game and was injured by the hit.

2015, in games against Pittsburgh, Vontaze ends Le’Veon Bell’s season, by landing on him out of bounds, rupturing his ACL.  He racks up 3 personal fouls, the most expensive violation being when he went for Ben Roethlisberger’s knees.  That play cost him nearly $69.5k in fines.  To close out the season, he targets and knocks Raven’s TE Maxx Williams out of the game, with a blindside helmet to helmet hit, when the play was nowhere near him.  This play cost Burfict $50k.

A trend is starting to form, and fines don’t seem to have any effect.  In 2016, he is fined for stepping on New England RB LeGarrett Blount’s leg, and for flipping off the Buffalo Bill crowd.  In a playoff game against the Steelers, after a great sack on Ben Roethlisberger, he appears to swing around and knee the quarterback in the shoulder.  Big Ben left the game for 3 series. His most famous hit was targeting all pro WR Antonio Brown’s head on a crossing pattern.  This lack of focus, and ensuing scrum cost the Bengals 30 yards in penalties and they lost the playoff game because of it. Burfict earned his first suspension of 3 games for that hit, and Antonio Brown did not return to play in the playoffs.

2017 started off with Vontaze fighting his own teammate Gio Bernard, after tackling him at the knees, right after Bernard returned from knee surgery rehabilitation.  Then before even getting a chance to serve his 3 game suspension from the playoff hit, in a preseason game against Kansas City, he is suspended for another 3 games for a blindside hit on FB Anthony Sherman. Keep in mind that this hit was initially a 5 game suspension, but was reduced to 3 after an appeal.   When he returns to action, you’d hope he learned his lesson after his first served suspension, but instead he falls back into the out of control player the league sees him as.  He is ejected for pushing a referee. Oddly enough, before this ejection, he was flagged for hitting RB Demarco Murray out of bounds.  Crazy thing was, Burfict wasn’t on the field to start the play.  He made this play watching from the sideline. So even when he’s not in the game, he can affect it.  One more fine was doled out that season for kicking Steeler FB Roosevelt Nix.

So this year, after serving a 4 game suspension for violating the league policy for performance enhancing drugs, he returns to form against the Pittsburgh Steelers this past Sunday.  On Pittsburgh’s first drive, Vontaze launched himself with the intent to make helmet contact on QB Ben Roethlisberger on a quarterback sneak. Later, after Pittsburgh’s first TD by James Conner, Vontaze appears to knee him in the head, then step over his body to straddle his neck area as Conner attempts to stand up.  A scrum ensues. The ugliest play of the game again involved WR Antonio Brown as he raised his forearm and targeted Brown’s head while he was being tackled by safety Jessie Bates.  Jessie takes the brunt of Burfict’s helmet in the side of his helmet, and both Brown and Bates stayed on the ground and had to be treated on the sideline before returning to play.

These actions go beyond what a player should be allowed to get away with.  Most recently, Burfict’s blind rage is not only dangerous for opponents, but also affects the safety of his own teammates.  I have researched 28 infractions (21 with an intent to injure), costing him $4M in fines and lost wages. Clearly fines do not affect his play, and it’s starting to look like suspensions do not either.  If the NFL truly is concerned for player safety, they need to step up like the NHL did when it handed out a 20 game suspension to Tom Wilson, who is the NHL’s equivalent to Vontaze Burfict for the way he targets to injure players.  In the NHL, when a player raises the forearm to check with the shoulder and target the head, it is clear to see the intent is to injure.  The NFL being a slower game, it is easier to read that intent.

What is it going to take to convince the league enough is enough?  His 24th professional violation? Injuring a referee? Paralyzing an offensive player?  The writing is on the wall, Vontaze Burfict has no interest at playing professional football without targeting to injure players.  He is a danger to opposing players, his teammates, and himself. It is time for the league to realize he is not going to change, and the only way to combat him, while adhering to player safety, is to remove him from the game entirely.  At one time the league loved these out of control, big hitting defensemen, but that time is over, and Vontaze Burfict has no place in this NFL.

Here is a link to the spreadsheet and credits for the reporters that provided the material.

Vontaze Burfict violations spreadsheet

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