Should Vontaze Burfict still be allowed to play in the NFL?

While the NFL is reviewing three hits Vontaze Burfict made during the Bengals’ Sunday 28-21 loss to the Steelers, NFL insider Ian Rapoport says fans calling for a suspension of Burfict will be disappointed.

Ben Roethlisberger spoke to Ron Cook of the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette after the game and expressed his frustrations. “He hits A.B., then, literally, as I am under center for the next play, he points at JuJu and says, ‘You’re next.’ How do you allow that stuff?”

Burfict had several plays which looked suspicious, but the most egregious was the hit on Antonio Brown.

“Burfict is a really good football player and I think everybody in this locker room has respect for what he can do on the field,” Steelers offensive tackle Al Villanueva said. “That hit on A.B, it’s unnecessary. It’s bad for the game. It’s hurting the National Football League. It’s hurting fans that are deciding if they want to let their kids play football. It’s injuring players in the NFL that are going to have consequences after football. I think there’s no place for that behavior. For him to come out and continue to talk and continue to make this game something more than a football game, it’s very unfortunate.”

After the Steelers win, Brown called the play a “nasty hit,” before adding he couldn’t really tell if the Burfict hit was against the rules.

This isn’t the first time Burfict, who missed the first four games of the 2018 season for violating the league’s performance enhancing drug policy, has gotten into trouble with the NFL for illegal hits. Burfict also missed the first three games of the 2016 season for a play where he hit Brown the year before, and last year Burfict was suspended three games for a hit on Chiefs running back Anthony Sherman in the preseason.

It’s clear through Burfict’s litany of  actions, he doesn’t really care about the rules of the game. Otherwise he wouldn’t break them with such regularity. It’s also clear that in this era when the NFL is prioritizing health and safety, Burfict is a fish out of water for failure to adjust in the slightest.

We’ve seen the ferocity at which the NFL is calling and implementing the roughing the passer penalty and how it affects the game, yet the NFL has been slow to condemn the hits Burfict made in Sunday’s game. Villanueva is correct in his assessment that those types of hits are hurting the game, but what the NFL and players may not realize is that with every “nasty hit” and every call not made they are alienating some portion of their fan base.

The NFL has a choice, they can come down hard on Burfict, a player who has proven time after time that he doesn’t care about player safety. Or the league can give Burfict a slap on the wrist and hope the next illegal hit doesn’t cause more damage.