Vontaze Burfict had his suspension upheld over a week ago, but that doesn’t mean the Oakland Raiders have gotten over it. Jon Gruden has already stated that he’s “not happy” about the decision and now defensive coordinator Paul Guenther has given a passionate response to the NFL’s decision.
“The thing with Vontaze is… with us knowing that the next infraction he was going to get was going to end his season, maybe his career – I think it was a witch hunt from the beginning, quite honestly,” said Guenther after Thursday’s practice.
“Somebody in the league didn’t want him playing football and they got what they wanted. We’re going to keep a close eye – the Raiders are going to keep a close eye to make sure everybody’s being held to the same standard as Vontaze was.
“I think it’s very unfair. It’s unfair to our team, it’s unfair to Vontaze, but we’ve got resilient players in there, proud guys, and they’re going to fill-in for him and they’re going to play for him.”
Guenther is clearly not happy with how the NFL handled the situation and he wasn’t shy about it. Burfict and he have a history together, so it probably made the decision even more difficult for Guenther to accept.
Burfict & Guenther Go Way Back
Paul Guenther and Vontaze Burfict have known each other for several years at this point. Guenther coached Burfict in Cinncinatti and he’s the reason the linebacker was signed by the Raiders.
“I’m going to be there with you one day,” said Burfict to Guenther when it was revealed he was leaving for Oakland. “When the Bengals let me go, [Guenther] was the first coach to call me and I said, ‘hey, I’m on the way.’ Happy to be here.”
There’s no doubt that Guenther has been in communication with Burfict through the suspension process. Apparently, the linebacker hasn’t been taking it very well.
“How would you deal with it if you basically got your career taken away from you?” answered Guenther to the question of how Burfict was dealing with the suspension. “He may not play football again and that’s a tough thing.”
It’s true, Burfict may never play a down of football again. It’s going to be very difficult for a team to take a risk on a player who is potentially one ugly hit away from a lifetime ban. He’s still young and has plenty left in the tank, but the NFL clearly isn’t going to give him the benefit of the doubt going forward.
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Next Guy Up
With Burfict done for the year, the Raiders defense is going to need players to step up. Fortunately, Tahir Whitehead brings a lot of the same veteran leadership that Burfict did. Paul Guenther is confident in the depth of his linebackers.
“Nick [Morrow] and Tahir have done an excellent job,” said Guenther. “Tahir is really wearing the green dot for us, so he’s running a lot of the show that Vontaze was doing – he was already doing it anyway this year and last year.”
The loss of Burfict is certainly a blow, but the Raiders usually only ride with two linebackers in their starting lineup. Whitehead should fill in just fine and the coaches love Morrow. As long as Jon Gruden is the head coach, Oakland is going to an offensive driven team. If the defense can play well, it will just be the cherry on top.