One of the NFL’s most notorious linebackers is done for the season — and it isn’t because of an injury. Oakland Raiders starter Vontaze Burfict, who was ejected from Sunday’s game against the Indianapolis Colts, was given a season-long suspension for his personal foul against Indianapolis tight end Jack Doyle. ESPN’s Chris Mortensen was the first to report the news.
This isn’t the first time Burfict has been ejected or penalized for a flagrant hit or cheap shot against an opposing play. The veteran has become infamous for his hits over the years, most notably in a playoff game on then-Pittsburgh Steelers receiver Antonio Brown.
The hit occurred early in the second quarter on a short completion by Colts’ quarterback Jacoby Brissett to Doyle. With Doyle already kneeling on the ground, Burfict took flight launching for a helmet-to-helmet hit right at the defenseless tight end.
Doyle, fortunately, got right up and escaped any major injury, but that didn’t deter the game officials from ejected Burfict. On his way to the locker room, Burfict was seen laughing and blowing kisses to the booing fans in Indianapolis.
With a history of fines and suspensions like Burfict, the league chose to enforce an ultimate punishment such as a year-long suspension. Don’t think the hit was dirty? You be the judge.
The linebacker will appeal the league’s ruling, according to Mortensen.
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History of Dirty Hits
According to ESPN’s Adam Schefter, Burfict’s suspension is a record for the longest suspension handed out for an on-field incident.
Burfict has already been suspended for 10 games in his career for prior on-field incidents. He was suspended four games last season for PED use, three games in 2017 for a late hit in the preseason, and three games in 2016 as fallout for a late hit on Antonio Brown in the 2015 playoffs.
In addition to those suspensions, Burfict has also been fined 10 times for personal fouls, unsportsmanlike conduct penalties, or other infractions in the past.
With a 12-game suspension set to be a record, Burfict was also forced to pay a record $112,000 fine for a late hit against a Steelers player last October.
He has also been ejected in the past for contact with an official following back-to-back personal foul penalties but was not fined or suspended for that.
In a league statement, NFL Vice President Jon Runyan made it clear the league would not tolerate such flagrant behavior from a repeat offender.
No Burfict, Big Problem
If the Raiders are to be without Burfict for the remainder of the season, it leaves a big hole at the middle linebacker position. The Raiders don’t really have another out-and-out MLB on the roster, meaning undrafted rookie Justin Phillips may be thrown straight into the fire.
Inside linebacker and fellow rookie Dakota Allen may also see an increase in snaps without Burfict in the picture.
One option could be to sign former Raider Jason Cabinda off the Detroit practice squad and convert him to a middle linebacker. Cabinda was with the team for the preseason and was a major profile for HBO’s Hard Knocks. Since he knows the defense, it would be a seamless transition to try and get him back involved.