The Cincinnati Bengals are awaiting word on whether the five-game suspension handed down to linebacker Vontaze Burfict will be rescinded, lessened or remain as is when Burfict meets with appeals officer James Thrash on Tuesday.
"There’s nothing I can do now, just appeal it and hopefully games reduced or it gets rescinded," Burfict said, via the Cincinnati Enquirer. "That’s what I hope for.”
Burfict did not travel to New York for the hearing, but attended practice on Tuesday in Cincinnati and will state his case on the phone.
"I was kind of surprised," Burfict said of the five-game suspension. "Obviously with the play being within the rules I’m kind of surprised, but you’ve got to play with the cards you're dealt. I let my teammates down, I let my coaches down."
New NFL senior V.P. of officiating Alberto Riveron told PFT Live that there are two rules Burfict broke by his suspension-causing hit on Kansas City Chiefs fullback Anthony Sherman.
Without delving excessively into the details of the Burfict case, which is pending on appeal, Riveron said in a Tuesday morning interview with PFT Live that Burfict also applied an unnecessary hit to Chiefs fullback Anthony Sherman after quarterback Alex Smith had thrown the ball elsewhere.
The ball was not going to Sherman, but it seems Burfict made his hit before he knew exactly where the ball was heading. Chiefs quarterback Alex Smith did look Sherman’s way before throwing the ball. As we know, Burfict is a highly instinctual player, so that’s not at all out of the question.
The other rule potentially broken is an illegal hit on a defenseless receiver. But, Burfict doesn’t seem to hit Sherman in the head or neck, or launch in hitting Sherman, so Burfict is going to say that rule was not broken. That goes along with the Bengals’ statement on the 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.
Bengals players were also surprised by the suspension to their teammate and defensive leader.
“Five games? Are you serious?” Vinny Rey said of his first reaction, as told by Bengals.com. “We understand where the NFL is going and trying to protect players. But it seemed like it was within five yards. It seemed like it was a shoulder and he was leading with his helmet.”
Fellow linebacker Nick Vigil says he thinks it looked like a legal hit.
“I was a little bit surprised to see how long. Five games is a lot to me,” Vigil said. “It looked like a legal hit from the front with the shoulder. Maybe a little high, but it looked good to me. That’s how he plays. He’s a physical player. That’s Vontaze. If you’re in the game he’s going to hit you. It’s football. You’re going to get hit.”
Head coach Marvin Lewis also said he thought the suspension was “ridiculous” and for a preseason hit, regardless of whether or not a rule was broken, we couldn’t agree more.
As we anxiously await news on whether the suspension will stand, things just continue to get more complicated as the NFL shuffles to see how it can make Burfict its latest poster boy for what not to do on-the-field.