Stop me if you’ve heard this one before: Cincinnati Bengals linebacker Vontaze Burfict hit Pittsburgh Steelers wide receiver Antonio Brown in the head with a shoulder shot that forced him to the sidelines to be tested for a concussion.
This is an article about yesterday evening, not the 2015 playoff victory in the Divisional Round against the Bengals. It came four minutes into the third quarter, on Brown’s second catch of the game. He was tackled by rookie Jessie Bates, who also hit him in the head. Burfict came in late and laid a shoulder into Brown’s helmet in a manner quite reminiscent of that previous incident.
“As you know, a nasty hit. Thank God I was able to come back in the game, finish the game”, Brown said about the hit after the game. “Any time you come in here, they call it the Jungle, you know there’s gonna be some hard hitting, some plays that could be challengeable as far as the calls, but I was grateful to get back up and come back in”.
He was asked if he felt that the hit was illegal. After Mike Tomlin was fined $25,000 for his comments about the officials, Brown said, “I don’t know. I couldn’t really see how he hit me, but I felt it. But I was able to get back up and finish the game”.
Surprisingly, Tomlin was not asked about the hit—which was not penalized—after the game, but Bengals Head Coach Marvin Lewis was. He deflected the questions, first saying, “I don’t know what play you’re talking about”. When a reported specified which play, and if he felt the league would take a look at it, he followed up by saying, “again, there are a lot of plays out there, and the league looks at every play”.
I’m quite certain that the league will be looking at that play, considering that it is a play that forced the officials to make Brown come out of the game and go through the concussion protocol before he was able to return a few plays later.
And I’m also willing to bet that he will be receiving a fine later in the week. It could be a big one given his status as a repeat offender. There was also a hit that he had against James Conner as he attempted to make a tackle in which he clearly lowered his helmet in order to initiate helmet-to-helmet contact with the running back.
This was Burfict’s second game back on the field after serving a four-game suspension for performance-enhancing substances. It’s also the third season in a row in which he began the year serving a suspension, the first two for his on-field conduct.
These latest incidents tick him that much closer to receiving yet another suspension in the future, quite frankly. I’m not sure how many times you can suspend a player for his repetitive on-field conduct without making it indefinite.