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Vontaze Burfict: I’ve let down my teammates; Chiefs player said hit was legal

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Vontaze Burfict has responded to the news of his five-game suspension to start out the 2017 NFL season.

Cincinnati Bengals linebacker Vontaze Burfict is facing a five-game suspension after the NFL decided he put forth an illegal hit in Week 2 of the preseason against Kansas City Chiefs on fullback Anthony Sherman.

Burfict is set to appeal the suspension, which he learned about last Wednesday. With the suspension in mind, Burfict had an incredible game against the Washington Redskins on Sunday afternoon, which featured a pick-six on Kirk Cousins as well as an incredibly fun celebration in the stands, which may very well get him fined.

In response to his suspension, Burfict feels he let down his teammates, but also believes the hit on Sherman was legal.

“I’m crossing my fingers and hoping for the best,” Burfict said, via Bengals.com. “I feel like I’ve let down my teammates, but I also feel like I’ve done a good job with this. I only had one personal foul last year. We feel like this was a legal hit. I hit him in the shoulder. I hit hard, so it may have looked like I hit him in the head, but it was the shoulder. I helped him up and he said he was good and I asked if he was good on the next series and he said, ‘Yeah, that was a legal hit.’”

As Burfict said, after Sherman was hit, the Bengals linebacker asked him if he was OK, and later on in the game, Sherman told Burfict he thought it was a legal hit.

According to ESPN’s Kevin Seifert, there are three criteria that would make this an illegal hit:

The NFL's suspension of Bengals LB Vontaze Burfict is likely based on a new rule for 2017 that gives defenseless player protection to a "receiver running a pass route," as Chiefs running back Anthony Sherman was on the play in question. It is illegal to hit that receiver when approaching from the "side or behind," according to the rule. But for the hit to be illegal, it must be one of three types: 1) Either a forcible hit to the receiver's head or neck area with a helmet, forearm or shoulder, 2) A hit achieved by lowering the crown of the helmet into the receiver's body or 3) Launching with both feet into air and hitting with the helmet. Based on one video angle available on Sunday night, Sherman was definitely a defenseless receiver. But we'll need an explanation from the NFL to understand which of those three hit types Burfict was determined to have used.

None of those criteria seem to apply here.

  1. Burfict did not hit Sherman in the head or neck area.
  2. Burfict did not lower the crown of his helmet into the receiver’s body.
  3. Burfict did not launch into the air, nor hit with his helmet.

Upon returning home from Washington last night, the Bengals released the following statement on Burfict’s suspension:

“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.”

Until the NFL decides to enlighten us on why Burfict was suspended for a hit that seems legal, we’ll be left to wonder, WHY?!