I ordinarily reserve only one column space per day in which I focus on news and information pertaining to division rivals of the Pittsburgh Steelers (or their upcoming opponents when the season is in progress), but I came across a piece late in the day that I felt was worth the doubling of AFC North coverage for the day.
While Cincinnati Bengals inside linebacker Vontaze Burfict is expected to lose his appeal on a pending four-game suspension to star the 2018 season (his third suspension in as many seasons), it doesn’t appear as though his future is in jeopardy just yet in spite of previous rumors that the team was considering exploring a trade.
As Paul Dehner writes, the former Pro Bowler has missed 29 games over the course of the past four years from a combination of suspensions and injuries, and he is likely to miss at least a quarter of the upcoming season due to the same reasons as well.
But head coach Marvin Lewis and director of player personnel Duke Tobin both voiced their weary support for their defensive captain, the latter saying that “the situation he has put us in is not ideal”, but that “we are a player-oriented business” and “players that can make a difference are important and we recognize that”.
He did concede that it is a conversation they have often had regarding Burfict and the risk and reward that comes with riding with a player that possesses his on-field abilities and his problems, which come both on and off the field now.
“We have conversations on that a lot”, he said. “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”.
I don’t think there is much doubt that the Bengals are a better football team when Burfict is on the field, provided that he is not drawing untimely penalties. And that is ultimately why his transgressions have been tolerated by perhaps the most tolerant organization in the NFL when it comes to that sort of conduct.
“That’s our job. That’s what we do. That’s our responsibility as an organization”, Tobin said. “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”.
He also denied that there was ever anything behind those previous trade rumors that began to circulate just before the news broke of his pending suspension.
Meanwhile, Lewis said that he has never even considered the thought that he might improve his team via addition by subtraction when it comes to Burfict. He maintained that he is well-liked and respected in the locker room and the suspensions haven’t changed that. The lost time has been the only struggle in that regard.