Following the game against the Indianapolis Colts, the NFL suspended Oakland Raiders' linebacker Vontaze Burfict for "repeated violations of unnecessary roughness rules." This decision led to Burfict filing an appeal with Derrick Brooks, who was jointly appointed by the NFL and the NFLPA. Wednesday afternoon, the league revealed that the suspension has been upheld.
Burfict's absence from the league has now become official, and he will miss the final 11 games on the Raiders' schedule. This outcome became far more likely when footage surfaced last week that showed Burfict hitting running back Nyheim Hines on a separate play. The prevailing belief at the time was that the league offices had "leaked" the video as further evidence to support the suspension.
This is the second time that Brooks has heard an appeal from Burfict and upheld the original suspension. In 2016, the former NFL linebacker opted to not overturn a three-game suspension caused by a hit on former Steelers wide receiver Antonio Brown.
When the suspension was originally handed down, NFL Vice President of Football Operations Jon Runyan explained in a letter that there were multiple reasons for this historic punishment. The hit on Colts tight end Jack Doyle was the latest example, but there were other plays from his entire career that were taken into account.
"There were no mitigating circumstances on this play," Runyan wrote to Burfict. "Your contact was unnecessary, flagrant, and should have been avoided. For your actions, you were penalized and disqualified from the game.
"Following each of your previous rule violations. You were warned by me and each of the jointly appointed appeal officers that future violations would result in escalated accountability measures. However, you have continued to flagrantly abuse rules designated to protect yourself and your opponents from unnecessary risk."
With Burfict no longer in the building for the remainder of the season, the Raiders will forge ahead with a reshuffled linebacker corps. The first option to replace the veteran in the lineup is Nicholas Morrow, a third-year linebacker out of Greenville College.
Morrow was in the starting lineup for the first time in the 2019 season on Sunday, facing off with the Chicago Bears in London. He finished the day with four combined tackles and an interception of quarterback Chase Daniel. Morrow may not have the same experience in defensive coordinator Paul Guenther's system as Burfict did, but he will be pairing with veteran Tahir Whitehead in an effort to keep this group on track.
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