The NFL has suspended Bengals linebacker Vontaze Burfict for the first five games of the 2017 season because of this hit. Burfict has a history of "dirty" play, but that hit didn't seem dirty to me.
Was it unnecessary? Maybe. But, hits like that happen during high school, college and NFL games all of the time. Burfict is appealing the suspension and the Bengals are in his corner. When this news broke late Sunday night, I couldn't help but ask myself one question. Why does the NFL still allow Burfict to play in their league?
This may sound like an anti-Burfict question, but it isn't. In fact, it's the opposite. Burfict has a history of dirty play and now the league treats him differently. Their five game suspension for a hit that appears legal to you, me and the majority of NFL analysts and fans is extreme. It's flat out wrong.
The NFL has placed Burfict under an unfair microscope. This suspension is proof. And before you call me a homer, please understand that I haven't always defended Burfict.
This is the equivalent of a salesman getting caught stealing prospective clients from his coworkers. If the boss (the NFL) disciplines him for it and decides to let him keep his job, then you have to let him move on. Give your employee a chance to succeed.
The NFL allows Burfict to play in the league, but suspending him for a hit that doesn't appear to be dirty shows they haven't let him move on. I'll admit that Burfict's reputation is hard to move past. Heck, I'm guilty of overreacting to his tackles and hits. That said, I'm not the NFL.
The NFL wants a safer game. They also want fans to love their product. It's hard to love something that isn't upfront and honest about its' rules and how discipline is handed down. If Nick Vigil, Kevin Minter or another Bengals linebacker had made a hit like this, would the NFL even consider a suspension?
Burfict has been fined and served suspensions for his 'illegal' play. Doesn't he deserve to get a fair chance at cleaning up his act? When does he get a clean slate? Handing down a five game suspension for his hit on Chiefs fullback Anthony Sherman takes that chance away.
What was NFL commissioner Roger Goodell thinking when he decided five games was fair? He doesn't have to change the ruling, but it would certainly make a lot of sense if he did.
Burfict needs to be careful. He can't be the player he was in the past. The hit in question doesn't make me ask 'why?' like previous Burfict plays have.
If he's allowed to play in the league, why can't the NFL give him a fair shot to do just that?
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