In the days following the latest contest between Vontaze Burfict and the Pittsburgh Steelers, during which the linebacker dealt—or attempted to deal—several blows that violate the league’s rules, a number of people are wondering aloud when enough is going to be enough. The Cincinnati Bengals’ Pro Bowler has already been suspended multiple times for illegal hits. At what point would the league finally decide to take him off the field completely?
If the league is really trying to make the game cleaner, then something has to be done about the players who show little to no willingness to make an effort to play in a clean fashion, when there are multiple examples of him explicitly targeting an opponent in an intentional and illegal way.
That’s what Antonio Brown’s teammates are wondering. All-Pro right guard David DeCastro questioned why a player like Brown, arguably the best wide receiver in the game, is not being protected as much as quarterbacks are.
Burfict hit Brown in the head with his shoulder while the wide receiver was in a prone position, completing a catch. He went down to the ground initially, and the officials clearly saw it, because they sent him to the sideline in order to go through the concussion protocol. Nothing was done, or seemingly said, to the player who initiated the hit.
“You have all the emphasis on quarterback’s safety, what about a guy like AB?”, DeCastro asked. “A superstar in the league. How much he means to this team. A cheap shot like that, I thought was unnecessary”.
Another lineman, Marcus Gilbert, was even more vocal, calling Burfict’s conduct and the league’s response to it “pathetic”. He added, “the NFL has to do something about that. A guy like that, going out there and intentionally trying to hurt people, there is no need for that kind of play in this league. It’s sad. Hopefully one day he will grow up”.
Of course, he has shown no signs of growing up, even though his teammates and coaches will continue to defend him tooth and nail, even as he deals friendly-fire blows while he tries to injure his opponents. On his hit against Brown, Jessie Bates got the worst of the blow, and had to come to the sideline to get his neck looked at. Did anybody ask Bates what he thought about that hit?
“He is just hurting his team”, Gilbert continued, adding that it could have been a penalty, and that he “should be suspended for that hit”. DeCastro offered, “if [the league wants] to make this game safer, maybe they will do something” about conduct like Burfict’s.
The NFL is reportedly looking into several of his hits from the previous game, but it was suggested that a suspension is not currently on the table. I guess they are waiting for him to accumulate even more egregious non-football plays before they suspend him yet again, only to allow him to return and continue to do the exact same things he has been doing since college.