On Monday, the NFL announced that it had made the decision to suspend Oakland Raiders linebacker Vontaze Burfict for the remainder of the season after Burfict’s dirty helmet-to-helmet hit on Indianapolis Colts tight end Jack Doyle on Sunday.
Burfict has a long history of dirty hits, and had been suspended on three previous occasions; as noted by NFL vice president of football operations Jon Runyan in a letter to Burfict, there was no reason for his behavior.
“There were no mitigating circumstances on this play. Your contact was unnecessary, flagrant and should have been avoided. For your actions, you were penalized and disqualified from the game. 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. However, you have continued to flagrantly abuse rules designed to protect yourself and your opponents from unnecessary risk,” Runyan wrote.
Raiders coach Jon Gruden, who wasted no time signing Burfict the day after he was released by the Cincinnati Bengals in March, isn’t happy with the league.
‘I’m not happy about it’
Speaking after the Raiders’ practice in London on Wednesday, Gruden was asked about Burfict’s punishment.
“I'm not really gonna say anything,” Gruden said. “I've talked to Runyan and the league office, he knows how I feel. It hurts our team really bad. I'm anxious to see what the appeal says. I'm not happy about it — at all. I don't want to say anything else, I'm obviously upset about it.”
(No word on him being upset with Burfict, who, you know, could have prevented all of this.)
Burfict had been fined 11 times and suspended for a total of 10 games before joining Oakland, so it’s not like the Raiders didn’t know the player they were getting. Of course, Gruden and general manager Mike Mayock also signed Richie Incognito, so high-character veterans don’t seem to be a priority.
‘I think that’s a little excessive’
Gruden wasn’t the only one defending Burfict. Raiders quarterback Derek Carr called Burfict “misunderstood” on Wednesday, which is an odd choice of words since Burfict wasn’t suspended for having a quirky personality, he was suspended for repeatedly ignoring the rules meant to keep his opponents and himself safer.
“I don't think he was trying to hurt that man,” Carr said of Burfict's hit on Doyle. “We see other people choking people out [Baltimore’s Marlon Humphrey on Cleveland’s Odell Beckham Jr.] and they're going to play this Sunday. We see other people hitting people in the helmets and they're going to play this Sunday. And Vontaze Burfict won't play the rest of the year, I think that's a little excessive if you ask me. I don't think it's fair.
“He's a great person, his heart is broken because he's not playing football. The guy just wants to play football.”
A dozen games might be excessive, and Burfict will appeal. But it’s disingenuous to act as though Burfict got the suspension he did out of the blue.
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