Cincinnati Bengals linebacker Vontaze Burfict is facing a five-game suspension for an illegal hit against Kansas City Chiefs fullback Anthony Sherman this month, league sources tell ESPN.
Burfict, a repeat offender, hit the running back in a defenseless posture, sources said. It is a new rule the NFL is implementing this season to protect the player who can't protect himself -- and it is going to hurt Burfict and the Bengals.
This is the hit in question....
This is the hit that the NFL is suspending Vontaze Burfict 5 games for. pic.twitter.com/Xiyab0kdrC— NFL Update (@MySportsUpdate) August 28, 2017
I....don't see an illegal hit.
It is illegal to hit that receiver when approaching from the "side or behind," according to a rule for 2017. For a 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.
I see neither of those three things, and I'm not even sure the guy who took the hit - KC receiver Anthony Sherman - is defenseless.
Yes, Vontaze has a well-earned reputation for being one of the league's dirtiest players, but in a vacuum - unless a better angle exists - I don't see a play deserving of a five-game suspension.
For the Bengals, this is obviously debilitating, even though the first five games are reasonably forgiving in terms of quality of offense's they'll play (at Green Bay, week three, being an obvious exception). Vontaze is their best player, even if he's arguably their most notrious.
That notoriety, more than anything, is what's gotten him in trouble again.
I'm sorry, that hit ain't dirty.
FWIW, here's a statement from the Bengals...
“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.”