Last Sunday’s pair of questionable plays by Bengals linebacker Vontaze Burfict resulted in no suspension for the player who missed the first three games of the 2016 season. A $75,000 fine for one of the two maneuvers — an apparent stomp on Patriots running back LeGarrette Blount — is pending on appeal.
Eventually, one of the two persons hired by the league and the NFL Players Association will decide whether the fine will be upheld. Until then, the league and the Bengals will be at sharp odds over whether Burfict did anything wrong.
Per a source with knowledge of the league’s thinking, Burfict entered the fray and committed a clear and obvious step on Blount.
From Burfict’s perspective, the evidence is inconclusive. Per a source with knowledge of the team’s position, Burfict was stepping in to pull a Patriots player off of an Eagles player, and that Burfict was looking forward, not down at Blount. Also, at least one official was watching the entire exchange but did not throw a flag. Although Blount’s reaction suggests that something happened, the Bengals and Burfict insist that any contact (at best a brushing of the calf) was inadvertent.
As to the controversial low hit on Patriots tight end Martellus Bennett, the league concluded that Burfict was reacting to a pump fake from quarterback Tom Brady, and that the low hit was the last resort to getting beat on the play. Based on all available angles and the progression of the play, the NFL decided that there was not enough evidence to take action.