The fallout and drama following Vontaze Burfict’s alleged actions against the New England Patriots this past Sunday just aren’t going away. The latest person who thinks he has something unique to add to the discussion is none other than one of the dirtiest linebackers in recent NFL history, Ray Lewis.
"I don't know what Burfict thinks the next move for him is," Lewis said on Fox Sports’ Undisputed. "Because the next move is probably out of this league, and he'll probably never be mentioned again."
While Lewis does have a valid point in that Burfict’s antics are consistently getting him into trouble and he does need to be careful going forward, Lewis’ comments do not follow suit with how he played for much of his NFL career from 1996-2012.
“When you think about what Burfict has the ability to do to a team, which we saw last year with the Pittsburgh Steelers game,” Lewis said. “For him to take that game and do that at that point in the game, I'm going to him and saying, 'look, I'm telling you straight up. If this ever happens again, we have a personal problem.’ Because, if it doesn't come from the core, if Marvin has to defend you every time, then you're going to always go out there and think this tough guy mentality survives. Well, it doesn't."
Lewis explicitly stated that the tough guy mentality doesn’t survive in the NFL, but it sure seemed to work for him despite multiple fines by the NFL for unacceptable behavior.
The most infamous of these incidents is obviously his murder trial that took place following an altercation at a Super Bowl XXXIV after party. Following a plea deal in which Lewis testified against his companions, Joseph Sweeting and Reginald Oakley, the allegations against him in the murders of Jacinth Baker and Richard Lollar were dropped. Still, he was found guilty of obstruction of justice and fined $250,000 by the NFL.
For the most part, Lewis cleaned up his act off the field after the issue. But, he became a nuisance on the field, consistently targeting players in the head and receiving fines for his actions.
One particular incident involved the Cincinnati Bengals and wide receiver Chad Ochocinco in the 2009 season. In a play reminiscent of Burfict’s hit on Antonio Brown, Lewis jumped at and speared Ochocinco’s head as he was attempting to come down with a first-down catch. The play was immediately flagged and Lewis was later fined $25,000, which was partially due to another incident during the game in which he kicked a Bengals player.
Was Lewis apologetic? Did he think about how his actions could have endangered other players’ safety or cost his team valuable field positioning in a close 17-14 loss? Did he worry about never being mentioned again following the incident? No. He was notably unapologetic about it and vowed that he wouldn’t change anything about his actions if given the chance.
“The bottom line is, when I turn to go, I'm like a missile. When I'm locked in, I'm locked in. Whatever's there is there,” Lewis said following the incident. “Worrying about fines and all that, I'll let that take care of itself.”
He certainly made good on his promise to not worry about fines after that. In a playoff loss to the Colts in the 2010 season, Lewis was fined another $5,000 for a helmet to helmet hit. He did it again the following season against the Pittsburgh Steelers, spearing Steelers receiver Hines Ward in the helmet and inciting concussion-like symptoms that kept Ward out of the rest of the game. He was fined $20,000 for that hit, and was once again was completely unremorseful.
“It won’t change, not one way I play this week no matter what the fine is,” Lewis said after the game. “You can’t stop playing defense the way defense has always been created to play.”
The following year, Lewis led his Ravens to another Super Bowl victory, retired, and went out with a legacy that will forever cause him to be remembered as one of the greatest to ever play the game. No one is denying that fact, but it just goes to show that Lewis clearly is completely incorrect in claiming that the tough guy mentality doesn’t survive in the NFL.
“What made me so confident was my work ethic,” Lewis said. “I was so confident in what my ability was, that all that other stuff - that was irrelevant.”
Sure, it seems irrelevant now. Lewis is retired and can boast two Super Bowl rings to his legacy, as well as an indisputable Hall of Fame career backing those rings up. But, if Burfict wins two Super Bowls with the Bengals and puts up Hall of Fame numbers through the rest of his career, does everyone automatically stop talking about his ‘tough guy mentality’?
That seems to be the only argument that Lewis can make in regards to this matter.