Following a pair of high-profile incidents during Sunday’s slate of games involving Cincinnati Bengals linebacker Vontaze Burfict, through which he is accused of expanding his reputation for being a dirty player, there has been quite a lot of discussion and commentary around the league and its players about how the league ended up handling things.
We have already talked today about how the Bengals themselves view the situation—more or less burying their heads in the sand and acting like Burfict did no wrong, as has become par for the course as they choose to circle the wagons around him rather than try to rein him in—but the outside view is rather different.
Just take Pittsburgh Steelers running back DeAngelo Williams as a textbook example, as he took to social media to respond to the league’s decision to simply fine Burfict $75,000 after he was caught on video stomping on the back of another player’s leg after he scored a touchdown and was in the process of standing up.
That was not the only incident that raised questions during the game, but it was the only one for which he was fined. Earlier in the game, Burfict was also seen going low at a tight end’s knee or ankle area as a pass sailed over all of their heads. Apparently there was no defenseless receiver protection involved here, as the league felt there was nothing wrong—or at least nothing to be penalized—in this incident.
Williams did not agree with the decision, commenting about how Commissioner Roger Goodell is “concerned about player safety”, yet “a known offender is fined rather than removed from the field”, saying “message received”. Burfict served a three-game suspension to start this season for his on-field actions last year, and has also been fined on eight separate occasions over the course of his career.
So roger is concerned about player safety right? However a known offender is fined rather than removed from the field? Message received???
— DeAngelo Williams (@DeAngeloRB) October 19, 2016
The league has argued in the past that past history is very much a part of the process of determining discipline, and, quite frankly, nobody in the league right now has a more storied history than Burfict, and I would suspect that many players around the league are shocked that he was not suspended—especially since players hate low hits even more than high hits, and Burfict has been proficient with both varieties.
Steelers outside linebacker James Harrison, of course, was famously suspended for one game several years ago as the first victim of the league’s sudden mid-season re-emphasis on certain player protections for repeat violations, some of which many Steelers fans at least consider questionable.
Part of the reasoning for Burfict’s three-game suspension that he served to start this season was based on the fact that he had a history. He only added to his history on Sunday, yet it de-escalated back down to fines. Yet if he was a repeat drug offender, he would be suspended indefinitely—a fact, of course, that the Steelers also know all too well.