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The Debrief: Injured secondary and Vontaze Burfict

The Cincinnati Bengals head into Sunday’s game with a depleted secondary. And people have opinions on Vontaze Burfict.

Miami Dolphins v Cincinnati Bengals Photo by John Grieshop/Getty Images

1) Mounting injuries in the secondary. Cincinnati’s secondary could face a significant shortage this weekend. Speculation mounts that cornerback Darqueze Dennard and safety Shawn Williams may sit Sunday’s primetime contest against Kansas City.

Dennard (sternoclavicular) and Williams (concussion) missed Wednesday’s practice, while backup safety Clayton Fejedelem, who replaced Williams last week against Pittsburgh, was listed as a limited participant.

Another question: If the Bengals promote cornerback KeiVarae Russsell or safety Demertrius Cox this weekend, to help bolster their depleted secondary, who leaves?

2) Several other players figure to miss Sunday. Running back Giovani Bernard and center Billy Price, sans the boot, worked on the rehab field Wednesday — Bernard and Price will probably miss Sunday’s game, but they are inching closer. They were joined by Williams.

It’s likely Price will return in early November, according to the mothership. Geoff Hobson writes that the “best guess is they’ll bring him back for the Paul Brown Stadium game against the Saints on Nov. 11.” Butch’s speculation means Price will miss the Chiefs and Buccaneers, returning after their Week 9 bye. If that’s the case, he’ll have missed six games.

3) John Ross was a full participant Sunday. After being limited last week, second-year receiver John Ross, out against the Dolphins and Steelers, was full-go on Wednesday. Barring any setbacks, this clearly indicates he’ll be ready Sunday. “I definitely want to get back and get in there and take pressure off those two guys (AJ Green and Tyler Boyd),” Ross said after practice.

While Ross was out, Green and Boyd averaged 12 combined receptions per game. Green specifically generated 197 yards receiving while Ross was sidelined since Atlanta — his highest two-game total of the season. Boyd was less productive, posting 106 yards receiving against Miami and Pittsburgh, his lowest two-game stretch of the season.

Ross has speed, but are teams that concerned about the threat he poses? During his four games this season, Ross has seven receptions while being targeted 15 times. His 46.7% conversion is way fewer than almost everyone on the team, with the exceptions being Josh Malone (one reception, three targets) and Cody Core (no receptions on three targets).

Bengals Injury/Practice Report Week 7

RB Giovani Bernard Knee/Toe DNP DNP
CB Darqueze Dennard Sternoclavicular DNP DNP
TE Tyler Kroft Foot DNP DNP
C Billy Price Foot DNP DNP
LB Nick Vigil Knee DNP DNP
S Shawn Williams Concussion DNP LP
LB Vincent Rey Hamstring LP LP
TE C.J. Uzomah Shoulder LP LP
WR A.J. Green NIR -- LP
DE Carlos Dunlap Buttock LP FP
LB Jordan Evans Hamstring LP FP
S Clayton Fejedelem Thigh LP FP
OT Cordy Glenn Ankle LP FP
QB Andy Dalton Back FP FP
OT Cedric Ogbuehi Wrist FP FP
WR John Ross Groin FP FP

4) Lingering questions about Vontaze Burfict’s hit. With 11:19 remaining in the third quarter, Steelers quarterback Ben Roethlisberger and Antonio Brown hooked up for a 13-yard gain, putting Pittsburgh on Cincinnati’s 46-yard line. Brown had Shawn Williams on his back with Jesse Bates coming in for support. Towards the end of the tackle, linebacker Vontaze Burfict entered the picture and brushed Brown’s left shoulder before hitting the side of his helmet.

Not only was Brown forced to exit, but the shot took out Cincinnati’s starting safety Jessie Bates. There was no penalty issued on the play. Brown returned within two plays and Bates surfaced a play or two after that.

According to NFL Insider Ian Rapoport, Burfict will not face a suspension for the hit but a fine is possible. Fines are traditionally announced on Friday, though this year some have been announced on Saturday.

Steelers quarterback Ben Roethlisberger spoke about the hit. “He hits A.B., then, literally, as I am under center for the next play, he points at JuJu and says, ‘You’re next,’” Roethlisberger said via the Post Gazette. “How do you allow that stuff?”

I mean, OK?

It goes without saying the Burfict is under a monumental microscope. Every action will dictate a reaction, either from an opponent or the league office. Since entering the league in 2012, Burfict has been fined 11 times for questionable conduct according to Spotrac. Those fines include hitting defenseless receivers, twisting ankles, multiple unsportsmanlike fouls, illegal hits, and one groin strike on Packers tight end Ryan Taylor. Of his three suspensions (10 games), two came as a result of illegal/major hits.

When asked for his thoughts on Burfict’s hit on Sunday, head coach Marvin Lewis feigned ignorance saying “I don’t know what play you are talking about. There were a lot of plays out there.” When a reporter clarified the play, Lewis reiterated that “there are a lot of plays out there, and the league looks at every play.”

That’s fair. Pittsburgh took 67 offensive snaps on Sunday; Burfict was part of 61 of them. Maybe the reporter should have said, “the one where Bates was taken out by him.”

Pro Football Talk high-minded Burfict’s dismissal from the NFL, calling the shot “blatant.”

The NFL has yet to respond to an inquiry from PFT as to whether they’ll investigate the situation and punish Burfict. They should. Ultimately, they should kick Burfict out of the league. He has had ample opportunities to comply with the expectations of those who run the sport. He consistently has failed.

Everyone is entitled to their (shitty) opinion.

On the other hand, Jason Whitlock, with Fox Sports, argues that Burfict “did nothing wrong.”

“He played a physical football game and controlled himself. The Steelers offensive line needs to shut (their) mouth and quit all this whining. They won the game. Vontaze Burfict did nothing. And he yelled at JuJu (Schuster-Smith) and told him ‘you’re next’ and he damn well supposed to do on a football field.”

The unfortunate thing for Burfict is 1) he isn’t playing in the 90s and 2) he doesn’t play of the Steelers. Otherwise, this subject is nonexistent.

5) Nick Vigil expected to miss about a month. With 4:28 remaining in the first quarter, Steelers fullback Roosevelt Nix bolted through the “3 Hole” (aka, the B Gap on the left), and lowered his helmet into Nick Vigil’s lower legs.

When Vigil went down, backup SAM linebacker Vincent Rey replaced him. Prior to Cincinnati’s loss to Pittsburgh Rey had two defensive snaps all season. He had 46 on Sunday.



Probably not.

It’s the Steelers’ way.