Cincinnati Bengals linebacker Vontaze Burfict, no stranger to being in the headlines, finds himself there once again: according to ESPN, he’s facing a four-game suspension for violation of the NFL’s policy on performance-enhancing drugs.
But reporter Adam Schefter, citing a source, writes that Burfict will appeal, and argue that he was on prescribed medication for a concussion he suffered as well as medication for a shoulder injury, and those medications led to the failed test.
The 27-year-old Burfict was concussed on a hit he suffered from Pittsburgh Steelers receiver JuJu Smith-Schuster on Dec. 4 (the same Monday night game that saw Pittsburgh’s Ryan Shazier go down with a serious spinal injury), and suffered a Grade 3 AC sprain three weeks later against the Detroit Lions.
Burfict took his failed PED test on Dec. 27; Schefter reported Burfict will argue that since he had already been ruled out for the season after the shoulder injury in Week 16, he could not be using a drug to gain an advantage.
It could get worse for Burfict, though: Ian Rapoport of NFL Network tweeted that if Burfict loses his appeal, the roughly $11.3 million in guarantees in the three-year, $33 million contract extension he signed with the Bengals last September will void, meaning Cincinnati would be able to move on with minimal financial drawback.
A date has not been set for Burfict’s appeal.
This is not the first time Burfict faces suspension: he was benched for the first three games of last season for an illegal hit on Kansas City’s Anthony Sherman during a preseason game; the punishment was initially five games, but reduced on appeal.
Burfict was also suspended for the first three games of the 2016 season for numerous violations of player-safety rules, including a brutal hit on Pittsburgh’s Antonio Brown in the 2015 postseason.
Between suspensions and injuries, Burfict hasn’t played a full season since 2013, his second in the NFL. He’s missed 22 total games over the last four years.
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