With less than two minutes left in last Saturday’s Wild Card Round game between the Pittsburgh Steelers and the Cincinnati Bengals, the Bengals linebacker Vontaze Burfict had a spectacular interception that everyone thought sealed the game. Cincinnati was ahead by a single point and they had the ball in their possession.
But then, perhaps the most exciting team in the NFL this season pretty much broke down. First, their running back Jeremy Hill lost the ball and then their defense crumbled as well, making stupid mistakes and earning penalties, none of which was as momentous as the one earned by the same player who had the interception, Vontaze Burfict.
The hit that earned the Bengals a 15-yard penalty which brought the Steelers within field goal range was a nasty one by Vontaze. He went straight for Antonio Brown’s head and almost ripped it right off the Steelers’ wide receiver’s body.
— HuffPost Sports (@HuffPostSports) January 11, 2016
It was a nasty hit and it came at the worst possible time for his team, but no one who has followed Burfict’s career to any extent was really surprised. The man was always known for making boneheaded plays that not only put opposing player at risk of losing their lives, but which also make it difficult for his team(s) to win close games.
As Gary Davenport of Bleacher Report pointed out referring to an article from 2010 San Francisco Chronicle, Burfict has been doing the same thing since he was at college, then still being thought to show too much “exuberance”.
In an earlier meeting between the Steelers and the Bengals back in December, three of Burfict’s plays were reviewed and he earned a total fine of nearly $70,000. He was also fined for this insanely brutal tackle on the Ravens’ tight end Maxx Williams.
— Jason McIntyre (@jasonrmcintyre) January 11, 2016
The reactions to the late-game play that earned his team a penalty and lost them the next round of the playoffs have been divided. Mike Ditka, for instance, told that he would never play a guy like that on his team. Burfict’s teammate and fellow numskull Adam Jones defended him of course, as did his coach.
The latest news is that the league has suspended Burfict for the first three games of the next season, citing “repeated violation of player safety rules”.