Vontaze Burfict has been the single-most polarizing and controversial linebacker in the NFL for years. His style of play is dirty and outdated and has no place in the league. The problem is that Burfict plays in an uncontrolled, aggressive mindset that is detrimental to the league and poses numerous health risks. Let’s look back at the career of Vontaze Burfict from high school until now. Perhaps the NFL can finally ban Burfict after his blatantly dirty and malicious hit on Indianapolis Colts tight end Jack Doyle on Sunday.
Vontaze Burfict Has No Place In The NFL
High School And Arizona State
Burfict was a five-star recruit out of Corona Centennial High School in California. His dirty play was at the forefront even in high school. In a game against Mater Dei high school, Burfict appeared to go for the quarterback’s knee. That quarterback was Matt Barkley who, coincidently, went to the University of Southern California and had to line up against Burfict yet again. On the play in question, Burfict blitzed. He was untouched by the offensive line and ran headlong into the backfield where he dove headfirst at Barkley’s knees.
At Arizona State, Burfict’s reputation started early. As a freshman, he managed to earn three personal fouls in their game against Washington. Sure, older fans of football would say that Burfict embodies the mentality that you must have as a linebacker. I get that. But, he was recorded as a cancer within the locker room in college thanks to the fact that there would be fights in practice almost every day. After three years as a Sun Devil, Burfict entered the NFL draft. He played in 37 games and amassed 22 personal foul penalties. For any NFL franchise with standards, this would have resulted in the end of Burfict’s playing career. Fortunately for him, the Cincinnati Bengals exist.
Early Years In Cincinnati (2013-2014)
Due to declining play, a failed drug test, and character concerns, Burfict was not drafted. Despite seeing all of the red flags, the Bengals signed him as an undrafted free agent in the aftermath. This one event spelled doom for the Bengals for the next seven years. It seemed like Marvin Lewis was able to reel in Burfict’s nature because he was able to go his entire rookie year without an incident in 14 games. It all began in the Bengals’ 34-30 win against the Green Bay Packers in 2013. His first incident was for hitting a Packer tight end in the groin, resulting in a $10,000 fine. A few plays later, Burfict laid his first infamous head-down, spearing hit on tight end James Jones, which resulted in a penalty and a $21,000 fine. Later that season, Burfict was hit with three personal foul penalties in a game against the Buffalo Bills and continued spearing defenseless receivers in their game against the New York Jets.
2014, the year Burfict was chosen as a captain, came and went without incident, except for in their game against the Carolina Panthers. Burfict was shown twisting quarterback Cam Newton‘s ankles after a few plays. Newton had been dealing with ankle injuries, so the dirty play was premeditated. The game ended with Burfict concussing Kelvin Benjamin in a helmet-to-helmet hit that was not penalized. The 2015 season was where it all should have ended.
The Feud With The Steelers (2015-2016)
If you ask any Bengals fan, they’ll tell you that they hate the Pittsburgh Steelers the most. Burfict took that and absolutely ran with it. In their first meeting with Pittsburgh, Burfict ended Le’Veon Bell‘s season on a dirty hit on his knees. He subsequently celebrated the injury. In their second matchup, Burfict “was pushed” into quarterback Ben Roethlisberger‘s knees. After further review, Burfict was certainly not pushed, but he deliberately dove for Roethlisberger’s knees. Finally, the one that got away: the Wild Card playoff game at home versus the Steelers. First, Burfict injured Roethlisberger on a sack in retaliation for another blatant no-call on Steelers linebacker Ryan Shazier that injured Giovani Bernard. Finally, after seemingly sealing the game on an interception and then a Jeremy Hill fumble, Burfict delivered a devastating hit on Antonio Brown, knocking him out of the game. The hit resulted in Burfict being suspended for the first three games of 2016.
The damage was done and the Bengals should have ended his time in Cincinnati after the Wild Card game. Once he returned, he got right back to his old ways. Burfict was fined $75,000 for stomping on New England Patriots running back LeGarrette Blount. Replay indicated that the stomp didn’t actually happen, but Burfict has such a colorful history and reputation that nobody batted an eye. The next incident was not due to his play on the field, thankfully. When the Bengals lost to the Bills, Burfict left the field with two middle fingers flying high, resulting in another fine.
Too Little, Too Late (2017-2018)
In 2017, Vontaze Burfict started yet another fight with his own team after a dirty, low hit on Bernard. Bernard was just returning from ACL surgery, so he did not take kindly to the hit. In the Bengals third preseason game, Burfict delivered an illegal hit on Anthony Sherman. This hit resulted in an initial five-game suspension, which was later reduced to three. Later in the season, Burfict committed a late hit in a game against the Tennessee Titans. In his frustration, he made contact with an official which is an automatic ejection. Questionable call or not, there is no excuse for making contact with an official.
2018 was the beginning of the end of an era in Cincinnati. While it came a few years too late, it was a welcome change. In the preseason, the NFL suspended Burfict for four games for performance-enhancing drugs. As if it were scripted, Vontaze Burfict reverted back in a game against the Steelers. He had no less than three dirty plays, none more than a hit on Antonio Brown reminiscent of the Wild Card game. Yes, Pittsburgh is a hated rival, but Burfict takes it too far every single time. Thankfully, the Bengals released Vontaze Burfict in the offseason following the season.
Oakland Raiders Era (2019-??)
When the Raiders, led by Jon Gruden, signed Vontaze Burfict and subsequently traded for Antonio Brown, we all knew the situation was going to be volatile. We all know the Brown situation, so it was only a matter of time before Burfict acted out. The NFL was hoping that Burfict had turned the corner, considering three games had passed without incident. Finally, it seems that when Burfict laid that hit on Doyle on Sunday, he could have speared his way out of the NFL.
It’s Been A Long Time Coming
Before this year, Burfict had been suspended a total of 10 games and fined a total of $4.12 million. Perhaps the NFL has had enough of Burfict’s dirty ways. For his hit on Doyle, Vontaze Burfict has been suspended for the remainder of the 2019 season. It has finally happened, but why did it take the NFL so long? Fines and suspensions obviously did not deter Burfict from head-hunting. Who would have thought that an individual who has, on several occasions, celebrated causing injuries would not learn? If you watch the replay of the hit and the eventual ejection, you can see Burfict jogging off the field with a big smile on his face. Vontaze Burfict shows no remorse. He sees nothing wrong with his style of play. There is no place in the NFL for someone like him.
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