The NFL has finally confirmed the four-game suspension for Bengals linebacker Vontaze Burfict. This means Burfict lost his appeal, as expected. Substance abuse appeals are almost never won in the NFL.
“Vontaze Burfict of the Cincinnati Bengals has been suspended without pay for the first four games of the 2018 regular season for violating the NFL policy on performance-enhancing substances,” the league announced. “Burfict is eligible to participate in all offseason and preseason practices and games.”
The suspension was previously reported on March 16th. Burfict had argued that it was for a prescription that he used late in the season while out with a concussion.
According to ESPN’s Adam Schefter, Burfict’s case was based around the team doctor prescribing him medicine, but, regardless of who prescribed it, rules are rules.
Burfict’s appeal will center around the fact that he was on prescribed medication for the concussion he suffered on a hit from Steelers’ wide receiver JuJu Smith Schuster on Dec. 4 as well as the fact that he suffered a Grade 3 shoulder AC sprain during the Detroit Lions game on Dec. 24 and was on prescribed medications for this injury as well, per another source.
It’s safe to say the NFL didn’t buy or care about that excuse, as Burfict will now be out for the first four games of the year. It will be the third-straight season in which Burfict has been suspended to start the season, though the previous two were for player-safety violations. This is the first PED-related suspension for Burfict. Prior to that, Burfict missed the start of the 2014 season with injury, so he has not played in Week 1 since 2013.
Between injuries and suspensions, Burfict has missed 28 regular-season games since 2014. 11 of those came in 2014 when he was sidelined with concussions and a knee injury that led to microfracture surgery. That led to him opening 2015 on PUP and missing the first six games.
According to Bengals.com, the suspension of Burfict will likely lead to Jordan Evans being the starter in his place for Weeks 1-4. That of course could change based on who the Bengals select in the draft and whether any other linebackers are signed this offseason. Alongside Evans, Preston Brown and Nick Vigil are also expected to start.
This suspension makes it more likely that the Bengals will draft a linebacker high in this year’s NFL Draft. Boise State’s Leighton Vander Esch and Alabama’s Rashaan Evans have been mentioned as possible first-round targets.
On a financial note, Burfict stands to lose a huge chunk of money as a result of this suspension and it even allows the Bengals to part ways with him fairly easily. Though, that won’t be happening as the Bengals have made it clear they will stick by the linebacker through yet another suspension.