Sunday afternoon, Oakland Raiders linebacker Vontaze Burfict was ejected after a direct helmet-to-helmet hit on Indianapolis Colts tight end Jack Doyle. This drew a penalty, as well as an outpouring of comments on social media. The belief was that Burfict would be suspended by the NFL as a repeat offender, and the league did just that on Monday morning while making history.
According to NFL insider Ian Rapoport, the league has suspended Burfict for the remainder of the regular season. His time as a starting linebacker and captain for the Raiders will end after only four games. Additionally, this is the longest suspension for an NFL player based on an on-field action.
The Raiders will now head to London for a battle with the Chicago Bears. Meanwhile, Burfict will appeal the league's decision, per his agent.
Here’s the hit that could get Vontaze Burfict suspended for the season pic.twitter.com/eC8DK2nqCg— Mitchell Renz (@MitchellRenz365) September 30, 2019
NFL Vice President of Football Operations Jon Runyan explained in a letter to Burfict that he was being suspended for multiple violations. Also, the league determined that there were no mitigating circumstances that played a role in Burfict's hit.
"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."
Runyan also added in the explanation about how Burfict has been warned multiple times in the past about his rule violations and how the punishment would be increased with each subsequent infraction.
Burfict now has three days to appeal this decision, and his argument will be heard by either former NFL linebacker Derrick Brooks or former wide receiver James Thrash. Both former players have been jointly appointed and compensated by the NFL and the NFLPA to hear appeals for on-field player discipline.
While the decision to surprise Burfict for the remainder of the season was viewed as surprising, there is some historical precedent that played a role. He was previously suspended four games in 2016 for an illegal helmet-to-helmet hit on Antonio Brown during a playoff loss to the Pittsburgh Steelers. Burfict also missed another four games in 2017 after an illegal hit on Kansas City Chiefs fullback Anthony Sherman.
In his career, Burfict has been fined $415,000 and has been suspended a total of 12 games for illegal hits and a performance-enhancing substance violation. The closest person in terms of fines is former San Francisco 49ers safety Dashon Goldson, who tallied $253,000 during his career.