The NFL announced on Wednesday that they are suspending Cincinnati Bengals Vontaze Burfict without pay for the first three games of the 2017 regular season for repeated violations of safety-related playing rules.
The suspension, originally for five games, was imposed by NFL Vice President of Football Operations Jon Runyan on Wednesday, August 23. Burfict appealed the discipline under the terms of the Collective Bargaining Agreement and James Thrash , an NFL-NFLPA jointly appointed appeals officer, heard the appeal on Tuesday, August 29. Thrash today reduced the suspension to three games.
Burfict’s most recent safety-related rules violation came with 8:01 remaining in the first quarter of the August 19 game against the Kansas City Chiefs, when he made prohibited contact to the head and neck area of a defenseless player as well as forcible contact with his opponent away from the flow of the play.
Burfict’s actions violated Rule 12, Section 2, Article 7 (a) (2) which states that it is a foul if “a player initiates unnecessary contact against a player who is in a defenseless posture. (a) Players in a defenseless posture are: (2) A receiver running a pass route when the defender approaches from the side or behind. If the receiver becomes a blocker or assumes a blocking posture, he is no longer a defenseless player.”
His actions also violated Rule 12, Section 2, Article 6, (g), which prohibits “unnecessarily running, diving into, cutting, or throwing the body against or on a player who (1) is out of the play or (2) should not have reasonably anticipated such contact by an opponent, before or after the ball is dead;”
In the letter notifying Burfict of his suspension, Runyan wrote:
“This is not your first offense with respect to illegal hits to defenseless players; to the contrary, this incident is consistent with your pattern of egregious safety-related violations including your hit on a defenseless player during the 2015 Wild Card game and your hit against a Baltimore tight end away from the play on January 3, 2016…When players violate the rules intended to protect player safety on a repeated basis, and particularly when the violations carry with them a significant risk of injury to an opposing player…you must be held accountable for this continuing unacceptable conduct.”
Burfict will be eligible to return to the Bengals’ active roster on Monday, September 25 following the team’s September 24 game against the Green Bay Packers.