Raiders DC calls Vontaze Burfict's season-long suspension a 'witch hunt'

Jack BaerWriter
Yahoo Sports

Oakland Raiders defensive coordinator Paul Guenther has been on the same sideline as Vontaze Burfict in all but one of the suspended linebacker’s seasons in the NFL. Unsurprisingly, the coach is sticking up for a player who won’t be allowed to play anytime soon.

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Addressing reporters on Thursday, Guenther lambasted the NFL’s treatment of the linebacker as it dealt with yet another helmet-to-helmet hit and subsequent suspension. He also threatened that the team would be monitoring to see if other players are treated the same way.

“I think it was a witch hunt from the beginning, quite honestly,” Guenther said. “Someone in the league didn’t want him playing football and they got what they wanted. The Raiders are going to keep a close eye to make sure everybody is being held to the same standard as Vontaze was. Now, does it make any sense to sign a guy, after one infraction, he’s going to get thrown out of the league for a year? No, it doesn’t. I think it’s very unfair. It’s unfair to our team. It’s unfair to Vontaze.”

Guenther and Burfict previously worked together on the Cincinnati Bengals.

Latest in a long line of suspensions for Vontaze Burfict

Burfict was suspended for the rest of the season and later lost his appeal after being ejected for a vicious hit on Indianapolis Colts tight end Jack Doyle in Week 4. The NFL later revealed it found another helmet-to-helmet hit that went uncalled in the same game.

None of this was surprising for NFL observers. Burfict has built up a reputation as the dirtiest player in the league, and it was only a matter of time until the NFL suspended him even longer than the three games he received to open the 2017 season.

Guenther still maintained that the NFL applied an inconsistent standard to Burfict and didn’t sufficiently warn him and the Raiders before giving him a suspension that was unprecedented for a dirty hit.

“There’s no standard, that’s the issue I have. There’s no ‘Hey, next time you do this, maybe you’re gone for the year. Maybe your career.’ I think that’s unfair,” Guenther said. “And now, they’ve opened up a whole can of worms as far as the next guy who’s going to do it, so we’ve got to make sure if we’re going to do this to this one guy driving 38 miles per hour in a 30 mile-an-hour zone, for the cop looking for one guy doing it, that all the players are held to the same standard.”

First of all, if the hit above is 38 in a 30 zone, 50 miles per hour might be an impossibility on Guenther’s scale. Doyle is on his knee and looking down, clearly defenseless. Burfict runs toward Doyle upright, then lowers his helmet and launches toward Doyle with both feet into the tight end’s crown. It is the quintessential dirty hit, and the quintessential Vontaze Burfict hit.

Will any team sign Vontaze Burfict next year after this? (AP Photo/Eric Risberg, File)
Will any team sign Vontaze Burfict next year after this? (AP Photo/Eric Risberg, File)

Over the years, Burfict has been suspended and/or fined for the following: numerous helmet-to-helmet hits, hitting a player in the groin, twisting multiple players’ ankles, stomping on a player’s leg, wiping out a player when his back was turned, flipping off the crowd and performance-enhancing drugs, for good measure.

The man has now lost $5,367,803 and 22 games to suspensions and fines in his career, according to Spotrac. Burfict’s history of misconduct goes back to college, where Burfict racked up 16 personal fouls in his last 26 games at Arizona State.

That’s the kind of player who gets a year-long suspension for multiple dirty hits in a game, and the Raiders either knew that or were willfully ignorant when bringing Burfict in. The NFL even mentioned that Burfict faced a harsher punishment because he is a repeat offender the last time something like this happened.

Could Vontaze Burfict’s career be over?

Guenther noted that had the Raiders supposedly known Burfict would face a season-long suspension for another offense, it would not have made sense to sign him.

Now, every team knows that if they sign Burfict, they run the risk of losing him for the year and more with one more dirty hit. And with Burfict, that’s an eventuality. Guenther seemed to interpret that as the end of Burfict’s career.

“How would you deal with it if you basically got your career taken away? Like that [snaps fingers]? And not really know that’s what’s going to happen,” Guenther asked. “He may not play football again and that’s a tough thing. He’s 28 years old, and all of a sudden it’s done.“

That might just be what the NFL wanted to accomplish in the first place with this suspension.

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