When players are suspended for a variety of violations, there is always the chance they can get the suspension reduced. For instance, if a player hits a player high and is given a 2-game suspension, if he is a first-time offender he could see that suspension reduced to a 1-game ban.
However, it is almost impossible to win a Performance Enhancing Drug (PED) suspension. Why? Because the substances which are banned are actually found in your body. This isn’t a, “Someone put that syringe in my gym bag!” type of offense. No, this is a, “This substance was in your body.” offense.
This is why most players don’t attempt to even appeal these suspension, like Pittsburgh Steelers tackle Marcus Gilbert in 2017, but Cincinnati Bengals linebacker Vontaze Burfict plans on appealing his 4-game suspension.
What is his reason for the appeal? It all stems from JuJu Smith-Schuster.
According to ESPN’s Adam Schefter, Burfict claims while recovering from a concussion, from Smith-Schuster’s vicious block in the December matchup between the bitter rivals, he unknowingly took a banned substance.
Burfict’s appeal will center around the fact that he was on prescribed medication for the concussion he suffered on a hit from Steelers’ wide receiver Ju-Ju Smith Schuster on Dec. 4 and that he suffered a Grade 3 shoulder AC sprain during the Detroit Lions game on Dec. 24 and was on prescribed medications for this injury as well, per another source.
No, Burfict didn’t come out and say, “It was JuJu’s fault!”, but that didn’t stop Smith-Schuster from catching wind of the claims.
That dude Burfict been on too much Slurp Juice and now tryna blame me— JuJu Smith-Schuster (@TeamJuJu) March 17, 2018
JuJu Hit Stick = Deadliest Weapon pic.twitter.com/KBsYMrJI7s— JuJu Smith-Schuster (@TeamJuJu) March 17, 2018
The one factor which will have to be difficult to ignore is Burfict’s history with the league. While he has never been suspended for anything off the field, until now, his on-field reputation certainly precedes him.
Schefter gives everyone a brief recap:
He was suspended for the first three games of the 2017 season for an illegal hit on Kansas City Chiefs fullback Anthony Sherman in the preseason. He initially was suspended five games but had the penalty reduced on appeal.
Burfict was also suspended the first three games of the 2016 season for numerous violations of player safety rules, including an illegal hit on Pittsburgh Steelers wide receiver Antonio Brown during the 2015 playoffs.
Separate from those suspensions, Burfict has been fined $303,637 for 11 on-field incidents in his NFL career, according to ESPN Stats & Information.
It may seem like a stretch, but Burfict is trying his best to be on the field next season for as many games as possible, and it will be interesting to see how the NFL handles not just the suspension, but the schedule. When Burfict was suspended in the past the NFL placed a Steelers vs. Bengals game early, likely to prevent the craziness which often ensues when the Bengals and Burfict go against the black-and-gold.
There is no appeal date yet, but you can bet Steelers fans will be watching this story closely.