He might be their defensive captain, but for Cincinnati Bengals head coach Marvin Lewis, he is not going to allow his team to be held back by the suspension of inside linebacker Vontaze Burfict, who received the four-game banishment for violating the personal conduct policy for performance-enhancing substances.
This is the third suspension of Burfict’s career, for the third consecutive season, but this was the first one for something that he did off the field rather than on it. The seventh-year veteran has been a strong presence on the field for the Bengals, but has proven to be a problem as well.
Lewis said that the team has been aware that he might be suspended for the start of the 2018 season since the 2017 season ended. The Bengals added Buffalo Bills linebacker Preston Brown via free agency on a one-year contract, who will provide an important presence while Burfict is suspended.
And he likely will remain suspended, even though he still has his appeal to be heard. Only three players since 2011, when the new Collective Bargaining Agreement was put into effect, have won their suspension appeals for performance-enhancing substances. Burfict is the fourth Bengals player to be suspended for performance-enhancing substances since then.
“We were aware of it since the end of the season so whatever happens, happens. It doesn’t hold us back”, Lewis told The Enquirer. “We’re going to miss a player, likely, for a few weeks, but there’s nothing we can do about it. That’s the way it goes. You’ve got to do things within the scope of what the players are asked to do all the time, and that’s important. Just gotta do it the right way”.
Burfict clearly doesn’t seem to have done things the right way. Reportedly, he intends to argue that the substance that he took is allowed for players after the season, and that his season was already over by the time that he started using it.
“There’s nothing you can do about it. It’s part of the system. It happens to people all the time”, Lewis went on to say about how the substance policy works. “They’re responsible for what goes in their body, no matter how some things are what people use every day. But yet unless you have the right paperwork, you’re not allowed”.
No doubt there are many players who are frustrated about the stringency of the league’s performance-enhancing substance and substance abuse policies, and perhaps that is something that the NFLPA will look to address when the next round of negotiations for the Collective Bargaining Agreement gets under way in a couple of years.