It didn’t happen without a fight, but the NFL has stood their ground and is upholding their decision to suspend Vontaze Burfict for the rest of the 2019 season, per Michael Signora. The NFL had come to this decision last week. Burfict and the Oakland Raiders had a chance to appeal the ruling on Tuesday but ended up losing.
The hit that Burfict got suspended for was a helmet-to-helmet collision with Indianapolis Cots tight end, Jack Doyle. It was hardly the most violent hit in his career, but when you couple that with the fact that Burfict has a long track record of making questionable plays, it’s difficult for him to defend himself. The NFL also found a second instance of him making an “illegal” hit during the Colts game. Once that was revealed, Burfict was going to have a really hard time winning his appeal.
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The Raiders Defended Burfict During the Hearing
Though he may have lost, Burfict did not show up to his appeal hearing unprepared. According to ESPN’s Josina Anderson, both Derek Carr and Jon Gruden came to his defense and emphasized how great of a teammate he has been.
Anderson also brought up that Burfict mentioned that there were much nastier hits over the last couple of weeks in the NFL that didn’t receiver nearly the same punishment that he is getting.
And of course, it wouldn’t be a Raiders appeal if they didn’t accuse the NFL of targeting the team unfairly. Al Davis would be proud. What’s also interesting is that apparently, Oakland pointed to the fact that Burfict was big in diffusing the fight between Mike Mayock and Antonio Brown. They certainly wanted to prove that he is a high-character player who just made a bad play.
Unfortunately for Burfict, he may have played his last game as a Raider because he was only on a one year contract. Jon Gruden is a big fan of his, so maybe they’ll give him another shot in 2020, but he’s going to have to playy very carefully because one more “illegal” hit could be the final step towards a lifetime ban.
Where Do the Raiders Go From Here?
The Burfict loss is a big blow to the defense. He was a team captain and the leader of the unit. He was also playing at a high level. The Raiders will rely on Tahir Whitehead and Nicholas Morrow at linebacker going forward. Whitehead is an experienced veteran and shouldn’t be much of a downgrade from Burfict. Morrow is a young player who is coming into his own and should just keep getting better.
Paul Guenther only uses two linebackers in his starting lineup, so the team might not even add a player to replace Burfict. Brandon Marshall is still hanging around in free agency and would probably be interested in coming back. Deone Bucannon is a former first-round pick who just became a free agent. He could be an interesting depth option for the team. Regardless, Morrow and Whitehead will more than likely hold onto the starting duties for the remainder of the season.