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Bengals believe Vontaze Burfict’s suspension-causing hit was legal

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The Bengals are unsurprisingly standing behind Burfict as he faces a five-game suspension.

On Sunday night, the NFL world found out Cincinnati Bengals linebacker Vontaze Burfict would be suspended for the first five games of the 2017 NFL season. But the Bengals have known for days about the news.

According to Bengals.com, the team believes the hit was legal and the club is pledging to help him appeal the suspension.

Here’s the statement the Bengals released after returning home from Washington on Sunday night:

The Bengals are aware of the NFL’s letter to Vontaze regarding a play in last weekend’s game. The film shows that the hit was legal, that Vontaze engaged his opponent from the front, and that contact was shoulder-to-chest. The Club will support Vontaze in the appeal process.

Burfict is appealing the suspension soon. Varying reports say the appeal will be this or next week.

Per Bengals.com:

The Bengals argue it was a shoulder-to-chest hit to the front of the target as Sherman ran a pass route out of the backfield barely a yard from the line of scrimmage, but the NFL seems to believe the hit was high enough to be disciplined and that it came away from the play. Since the play was Chiefs quarterback Alex Smith’s 36-yard pass to tight end Travis Kelce down the middle of the field, no one appeared to notice Burfict’s hit on Sherman at the time and it wasn’t flagged.

Here is the play for which Burfict is being suspended:

Burfict is a repeat offender having missed three games due to suspension last year for repeated violations of the NFL's safety rules. That's likely why this suspension is for an unprecedented five games after his first suspension was for an equally-unprecedented five games.

Burfict has looked great this preseason, especially on Sunday in Washington. It would be an incredible blow to a Bengals team looking for a bounce-back year if the best linebacker on the team were to miss five games.

The Bengals face the Baltimore Ravens, Houston Texans, Green Bay Packers, Cleveland Browns and Buffalo Bills in Weeks 1-5. If the suspension holds up, Burfict would return in Week 7 (the Bengals have a Week 6 bye) against the Pittsburgh Steelers on October 22.