N.F.L. Upholds Suspension of Vontaze Burfict

The N.F.L. upheld its season-long suspension of Vontaze Burfict, the Oakland Raiders linebacker who was suspended without pay after he hit a defenseless Indianapolis Colts player in Week 4.

The suspension for 12 regular-season games, as well as any playoff games, is the longest suspension ever given for on-field actions.

The appeals officer Derrick Brooks, who was appointed by the N.F.L. and the N.F.L. Players Association, agreed with the league’s vice president for football operations, Jon Runyan, who suspended Burfict for an “unnecessary, flagrant” helmet-to-helmet hit on tight end Jack Doyle of the Colts on Sept. 29.

Runyan said he based the suspension in part on Burfict’s history of violent hits. “Following each of your previous rule violations, you were warned by me and each of the jointly-appointed appeal officers that future violations would result in escalated accountability measures,” he wrote in his letter to Burfict. “However, you have continued to flagrantly abuse rules designated to protect yourself and your opponents from unnecessary risk.”

In the game, a 31-24 win for the Raiders, Doyle caught a pass at midfield, and Burfict, with head lowered and both feet off the ground, plowed his helmet into Doyle’s. He was ejected from the game, then blew mock kisses to the fans as he left the field. Doyle has not missed any time as a result of the hit.

Burfict has a long record of hard hits that skirt the line of legality, and sometimes cross it. He has racked up impressive totals of fines and suspensions. The N.F.L. is allowed to consider past actions when determining suspensions, and certainly did so in this case.

Burfict’s previous transgressions include twisting the ankles of the Panthers’ Cam Newton and Greg Olsen, stepping on LeGarrette Blount’s head, making an obscene gesture to the Bills’ crowd and elbowing Antonio Brown in the head. These acts and others frequently resulted in fines or suspensions of short duration.

Burfict also started 2018 late, after a four-game suspension that was widely reported to be because of a drug violation.

After seven years with the Bengals, he moved on to the Raiders this season. Burfict, 28, was scheduled to make $1.8 million in salary and bonuses this year. He will be an unrestricted free agent at the end of the season.

Source: NYT

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