On Thursday it was announced by the NFL that Cincinnati Bengals linebacker Vontaze Burfict will indeed miss the first four games of the 2018 NFL regular season after having his suspension appeal denied. As a result of this ruling, Burfict will now miss his third-consecutive regular season opener due to a suspension.
Nearly one full month ago it was reported that Burfict was facing a potential four-game suspension for violating the NFL’s Performance-Enhancing Drug policy and that he had an appeal pending. On Thursday, it was announced that his appeal had been denied. Because of his latest suspension, any remaining guaranteed portion of Burfict’s three-year, $33 million contract that he signed just prior to the start of the 2017 regular season will void, according to Ian Rapoport of the NFL Network.
Despite his most recent suspension, the Bengals appear set to stick with Burfict at least for the 2018 season.
“Do we have conversations on that a lot? Sure, we have conversations on that a lot,” Bengals director of player personnel Duke Tobin said last month at the annul league meetings. “But at the end of the day we are a player-oriented business and the players are the ones that win or lose for us. We try to collect as many players that can help us win. That’s our job. That’s what we do. That’s our responsibility as an organization: To try to put the best football team on the field that we possibly can.
“It’s not ideal when a guy is not available to us and we recognize that, but our over-riding thought is how to field the best football team we can possibly field.”
If the Bengals were going to release Burfict it would have made sense for them to do so prior to March 31 as that was when he was reportedly due a $2 million roster bonus. The fact that he remains on the team’s roster with two weeks to go before the 2018 NFL Draft takes place is a good sign he’ll remain with the team through at least the upcoming season.
With Burfict now set to miss the first four games of the 2018 season, second year Bengals linebacker Jordan Evans becomes an instant candidate to fill in for him as a starter. Evans, who was drafted last year by the Bengals in the sixth-round, started four games during his rookie season on his way to registering 38 total tackles.
It’s yet to be seen if one of the four games that Burfict will miss to open the 2018 regular season will include a contest against the Pittsburgh Steelers. The league won’t release the official 2018 schedule for several more days so we’ll have to wait and see who the Bengals first four opponents will be. During his three-game suspension to open the 2016 regular season, Burfict missed the Bengals Week 2 game against the Steelers.
As a result of his latest suspension, Burfict will have missed 33 of the Bengals’ last 70 games due to either suspensions or injuries. Last season he recorded just 69 total tackles in the 10 games that he had played in.
Burfict reportedly planned to argue to the league during his appeal that him violating the league’s performance-enhancing drug policy was a direct result of him using medications prescribed by team doctors following a concussion he had suffered last December during a game against the Steelers. In that game, Burfict was injured by what was ultimately deemed an illegal block by Steelers wide receiver JuJu Smith Schuster.