The NFL is hotter than ever as the season hits mid-October. Aaron Rodgers, Ben Roethlisberger, and Tom Brady led last second drives. Antonio Brown made a game winning catch while Todd Gurley had three touchdowns. J.J. Watt found his second home in the offensive backfield. And Vontaze Burfict tried to injure someone. AGAIN. The dirtiest player in the sport tried to take off Brown’s head. AGAIN. And #55 earns a nice stay in Beav’s Penalty Box. The Cincinnati Bengals linebacker has been suspended six games over his career for illegal hits. His most famous dirty hit was on Brown in a 2015 playoff game. Never mind that Burfict was just coming back from a four-game ban for PEDs. He will do this to some other player. SOON. AGAIN.
Burfict has gone after players knees (I saw him do this three or four times in a game against the Patriots in 2016) and heads (Brown for one) numerous times. When he KO-ed Brown Sunday, he pointed at Steelers receiver JuJu Smith-Schuster and said “You’re Next,” per numerous Pittsburgh players. Smith-Schuster famously ended Burfict’s 2017 season with a vicious crack back block which was allowed until enforcement of recent rule changes emphasizing unprotected players. In English, if a player cannot see you or is turned away, DON’T hit him. Even Vontaze Burfict.
The NFL likes to talk about player safety. Listen, ANYONE who plays football accepts reasonable risk. Clean, hard play can lead to injuries, never mind tactics that cheap shot artists like Vontaze bring to the table. With recent lawsuits by retired stars and studies about CTE and concussions, the NFL is trying to take steps to both protect players and minimize legal fault. This is all good and nice but somewhat of a dog-and-pony show. The entire NFL management structure—from the league office to individual teams—shares blame for the health and welfare of the players. They can take an important step to assure this by banning Vontaze Burfict before he strikes. AGAIN.
The NFL has policies on everything from on the field discipline—ranging from uniforms to penalties in game action—to drugs (both performance-enhancing and recreational) and off-field legal matters. Most of these rules are part of the NFL collective bargaining agreement negotiated between the owners and players and are designed to protect the short- and long-term welfare of the athlete. I would tend to think banning a guy who does nothing but try to injure members of the players union (a.k.a. the players of the NFL) would be a good idea. Vontaze is sorry though. You want to bet he does this soon? AGAIN?
Banning Burfict is a win-win for the NFL. First, they are doing the right thing for both the players and the sport. Last year’s serious neck injury to Steelers’ linebacker Ryan Shazier on National TV still affects folks. The two teams in that contest? The Steelers and Bengals. In that same game, both teams exchanged multiple cheap shots led by Smith-Schuster’s retaliation on Vontaze. This turned off a lot of fans and the NFL is very image-conscious. From Ray Rice to Tom Brady, the league has had nothing but legal missteps in the past five years. They can correct this by sending Burfict away for good before he strikes. AGAIN.