The NFL, despite its numerous hypocrisies, has at least attempted to address its violence issue by implementing concussion countermeasures and stricter penalties for repeat offenders of in-game rules. Cincinnati Bengals LB Vontaze Burfict, for example, was suspended for the first three games of the 2016 season after delivering a concussion-inducing blow to the head of All-Pro WR Antonio Brown during the AFC Wildcard playoffs last season.
Now, Burfict has drawn attention to himself yet again after diving at the knees of Patriots TE Martellus Bennett and stomping on the foot of RB LeGarrette Blount during Cincinnati's 35-17 blowout loss against New England, as evidenced below:
Video: From coaches film (courtesy NFL), watch Vontaze Burfict (55) deliberately step on Blount's leg after TD. pic.twitter.com/wtTPqy3XHP— Mike Reiss (@MikeReiss) October 17, 2016
The legality of Burfict's hit on Bennett is somewhat debatable, as it looks a lot worse on the replay than it probably was in reality. It was certainly a dirty-ish hit and will probably draw some sort of fine, but the hit wasn't particularly vicious, especially by Burfict's standards.
The "hit" on Blount, on the other hand, is inexcusable.
As Reiss' video demonstrates, Burfict approached an already-down Blount and appears to have stepped on his leg, prompting the former Steelers halfback to retaliate with a shove. Blount's touchdown put New England ahead of Cincinnati 35-17 with under one minute remaining in Sunday's game, so any excuse conjured by Burfict or the staunchest Bengals supporter is essentially meaningless.
With that, it is probably fair to call for the NFL to go beyond a fine and hand down another suspension to Burfict, who has developed a well-deserved reputation as the league's dirtiest player.
If Cleveland Browns receiver Josh Gordon can receive a season-long suspension for drinking a glass of champagne on an airplane due to his status as a "repeat offender" of the NFL's substance-abuse policy, why isn't the same punishment applicable to a repeat offender of in-game safety protocols? Burfict's aforementioned three-game suspension was clearly an acknowledgment from the league that he is a dirty player, so why shouldn't he be subjected to harsher punishments? Players such as Gordon and Steelers WR Martavis Bryant will be subject to increased drug testing scrutiny for the remainder of their careers, and a single positive test could knock either of them from the league for good. So, again, why shouldn't Burfict be punished the same as a drug offender?
Smoking weed and taking unprescribed Adderall is obviously against the league's current mandate, so this article isn't to argue that Bryant's and Gordon's suspensions weren't warranted. Under current league rules, those punishments are standard. But neither Bryant nor Gordon has ever taken intentional shots at an opponent's groin area (as Burfict has), delivered head-first tackles to defenseless receivers (as Burfict has on multiple occasions) or twisted the ankles of opponents who had already found their way into the end zone (again, as Burfict has done more than once). Sparking a joint at home or enjoying a glass of champagne during a two-hour flight isn't going to end someone's career; Burfict's antics very well could.
The NFL has boldly and bravely stepped in to penalize players who, among other things, support dead sports heroes, honor cancer victims in months that don't end with "tober" or do hilarious and awesome touchdown celebrations. And now, apparently, the same league that sells "Redskins" gear on its website considers a pantomimed bow and arrow celebration to be too offensive.
Let's focus on things that matter, NFL, and prevent what can only be described as a dangerous player from ruining somebody's career.