If you like to do things that you know you shouldn’t do, Vontaze Burfict is the man for you.
A lot of national recognition was given over the last two weeks after Cincinnati Bengals linebacker Vontaze Burfict went out of the way to deliver a blow to the head of Steelers wide receiver Antonio Brown in their wild card playoff bout two weeks back. Burfict was suspended for three games by the NFL for hitting with the crown of his helmet and was slapped with a game-deciding 15 yard unnecessary roughness penalty.
Anyone who was surprised by the hit or Burfict’s actions during the game has probably never seen him play. This was just the latest in a long line of cheap, dirty and reckless plays. You don’t have to go back more than a quarter to find another instance of cheap and dirty behavior by Burfict. Burfict sacked Steelers quarterback Ben Roethlisberger late in the third quarter of the Bengals versus Steelers wild card game in which he caused Roethlisberger to suffer a sprain to his AC joint (shoulder) and tears in ligaments in the shoulder. Although the hit wasn’t dirty and the injury was accidental, Burfict in the following moments after the play had ended, drove his knee into the helmet of Roethlisberger on national television for the world to witness.
It may not seem bad, but to put it in perspective, doing that in a UFC fight would have resulted in a penalty and possible disqualification. Football is, by nature, a violent sport, but to think the officials in the NFL can’t eliminate this kind of reckless play is ridiculous.
But if you think Sunday is an outlier, you are terribly mistaken. All you have to do is go back one more week. In Week 17, as the Bengals faced the Baltimore Ravens, Burfict laid out Ravens rookie tight end Max Williams with an unnecessary blind-side hit.
“The acts of Vontaze Burfict were unacceptable,” freshman political science major Chris Tran said. “Burfict should no longer have the privilege of playing in the NFL after yet another instance where he proves to us that he is a dirty player taking cheap shots at opponents. Someone like this doesn’t belong in the game.”
Burfict has had issues with unnecessary roughness since his college days and leads the NFL in unnecessary roughness penalties since starting in the league in 2012. As defined by the NFL rulebook, unnecessary roughness is when “a player uses any part of his helmet (including the top/crown and forehead/“hairline” parts) or facemask to butt, spear or ram an opponent violently or unnecessarily.” Examples from the rulebook include forcibly hitting the defenseless player’s head, neck or face with the helmet or facemask, lowering the head and violently or unnecessarily making forcible contact with the forehead part of the helmet against any part of the defenseless player’s body, or “launching” into a defenseless player.
Scouted as a first-round talent going into his senior year at Arizona State in 2011-12, Burfict fell completely out of the 2012 NFL Draft. One red flag came up. Burfict was tagged with 16 personal fouls in his final 26 collegiate games. Scouts said teams wondered whether he had anger issues and how much he could control his emotions while on the field.
In his junior year, Burfict was involved in many on-field incidents. One instance included Burfict head-butting Oregon State quarterback Ryan Katz, which resulted in Burfict being benched for their game against Washington the next week.
He then racked up three penalties later in the year against Stanford, two being personal fouls. He didn’t stop in his senior year either as Burfict during a game versus Arizona State, was called for two late hit penalties against Oregon.
After talking with Burfict, thinking he had changed his ways, Bengals head coach Marvin Lewis gave him a shot. It didn’t take long in his rookie season to see Burfict had no real plans on changing his ways.
In his rookie season, Burfict was fined $31,000 for his actions against the Green Bay Packers and was fined another $21,000 for his hitting with the crown of the helmet against the New York Jets.
In 2014, Burfict was fined $25,000 for twisting ankles against the Carolina Panthers. As supported by indisputable video evidence, Burfict was seen purposely twisting the ankles of Panthers quarterback Cam Newton and tight end Greg Olsen. Olsen then called for Burfict to be suspended after the game had ended.
This past season, not only did he commit the three dirty and reckless plays I already alluded to, but Burfict was also fined for three different plays he committed in the last regular season game against the Steelers. He was fined for a low hit on Roethlisberger and two unnecessary roughness calls.
Burfict has already been fined more than $1 million for his recklessness and has now been suspended to start next year. It should have not taken the hit on Brown in the wild card playoff game on the national stage to suspend Burfict or to start having the conversation on whether or not he belongs in the league.
One common denominator from the time Burfict signed with the Bengals to right now is the head coach of the Bengals. Marvin Lewis took a shot on Burfict thinking that he was going to be special and that he was going to try to make an effort to improve his reputation coming out of college.
As we sit here with $1 million missing from Burfict’s pocket and the Bengals having been eliminated from playoffs, it’s time to start pointing questions at Lewis.
“Burfict did a bone head thing in the context of the game,” freshman journalism major Andrew Abreu said. “It is almost a certainty that if he did not hit Antonio Brown in the manner he did, the Bengals would have been through to the next round of the playoffs. A lot of that falls on the head coach. I believe he needs to make sure all players are in the correct mind of thinking during all times of the game.”
What Burfict is doing is a trend. A trend that ended up costing the Bengals their season and Burfict the first three games of next season.
Football is a brutal game. It doesn’t need to be the type of contest where a player’s clear intent is to injure another person whenever opportunity presents itself and allows the guilty party to keep playing.
The Penalty Box is a weekly sports opinion column that is produced by either Matthew Saunders (Digital Producer), Christopher Davis (Digital Producer), Jimmy Calhoun (Senior Staff Writer) or Evan Abramson (Sports Editor). The columns will bring a little bit of humor to you, have a competitive mentality of arguing with others' opinions and provide a different perspective of the sports world.
Jimmy Calhoun is a Senior Staff Writer for the Central Florida Future.
***The Penalty Box is a column written by four different sports writers on the Central Florida Future staff that tries to on a weekly basis, bring a new perspective of sports news to you instead of the main stream media you are used to seeing. Ranging from high school scouting reports to everything UCF, to the big honchos sitting in the commissioners office in the NFL, The Penalty Box will serve as a place for the fun, humorous, and sometimes angry thoughts we need to get off our chests.***