With the league having so much control over so many aspects of player discipline, it’s easy to forget that, in one specific area, the NFL doesn’t make the final call.
When it comes to punishment imposed for on-field misconduct, the league and the NFL Players Association have jointly hired, and jointly compensate, a pair of hearing officers to resolve the appeals: Derrick Brooks and James Thrash. One of them will determine whether: (1) the hit from Bengals linebacker Vontaze Burfict on Chiefs fullback Anthony Sherman was illegal; and (2) if so, whether he should be suspended five games for it.
Burfict’s history has a direct influence on the punishment. The NFL employs a system of progressive discipline in matters of this nature, with the thinking being that the punishment will increase until the player gets the message. Burfict, in the league’s view, clearly hasn’t gotten the message.
And so, after a three-game suspension imposed (and upheld) after an illegal hit on Steelers receiver Antonio Brown, Burfict now faces the next level — a five-game banishment. If this one is upheld and he still doesn’t get the message, it will continue to get worse.