It’s been a long wait, but after three games, he’s finally back. Well, they’re both back. The Pittsburgh Steelers have Le’Veon Bell back after completing a three-game suspension for violation of the league’s substance abuse policy, and the Cincinnati Bengals are getting back the man who ended his season, linebacker Vontaze Burfict, who was suspended for the first three games of the 2016 season due to repeated violations of player safety rules.
Many of those players safety rules violations, of course, happened to come against the Steelers, including a blow to the head of wide receiver Antonio Brown that caused the All-Pro wide receiver to suffer a concussion, which kept him out of the team’s Divisional Round game after they got past the Bengals on the game-winning field goal that followed that hit.
Over the course of his career, Burfict has been fined over $200,000 due to violations of player safety rules. Last season alone, in games against the Steelers, he incurred fines amounting to approximately $120,000. He even managed to land a $25,000 fine in a 2014 season in which he only played five games.
The repeated violations finally piled up enough that the league office felt it was warranted to take him off the field, and, admittedly, a three-game suspension is historically a pretty hefty level of discipline based on previous instances of players drawing suspensions due to their conduct on the field outside of clearly extracurricular behavior.
Burfict’s three-game suspension this year, by the way, caused him to lose out on $167,647, the equivalent of three game checks split 17 ways on a base salary of $2,850,000. So if you add that on to his total of incurred fines over the course of his career due to his on-field behavior, he is nearing $400,000 already, and may soon be on his way to half a million.
The Bengals could probably use him on the field, considering that they currently rank 20th in the league, allowing 25 points per game over the course of the first three games. They have lost their past two games by allowing 24 and 29 points, respectively, and very narrowly avoided defeat in the season opener as well after giving up a late field goal that they managed to match.
Admittedly, Vincent Rey has played fairly well for the Bengals in Burfict’s absence—his game against the Steelers may have been particularly noteworthy—but Burfict is rightfully regarded as a quality linebacker, in spite of what one might think about who he displays himself to be as a person, both on the field, as well as on it.
His teammates, at least, are certainly happy to see him back on the field, but he won’t have a lot of time to get himself prepared, as the Bengals happen to play on Thursday Night this week, against a Dolphins team in Miami that had to go to overtime in order to unseat the Browns.