Was Vontaze Burfict’s hit legal?

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Before a hearing officer can decide whether a five-game suspension represents the appropriate punishment for Bengals linebacker Vontaze Burfict, a hearing officer must decide whether the hit merits any punishment at all.

That’s the real question here. Did Burfict deliver an illegal hit to Chiefs fullback Anthony Sherman? He was running a pass route, which this year puts him within the scope of the protections afforded to defense players. Which means that Sherman can’t be struck in the head or neck area.

Was he? Look at the video. While there may have been some minor, incidental contact with Sherman’s facemask, Burfict dropped a shoulder into the chest of Anthony Sherman. The fact that the ball was away doesn’t matter; the punishment doesn’t arise from unnecessary roughness. It flows directly from the notion that Burfict hit Sherman in the head and neck area while he was defenseless.

I’m crossing my fingers and hoping for the best,” Burfict told the team’s official website. “I feel like I’ve let down my teammates, but I also feel like I’ve done a good job with this. I only had one personal foul last year. We feel like this was a legal hit. I hit him in the shoulder. I hit hard, so it may have looked like I hit him in the head, but it was the shoulder. I helped him up and he said he was good and I asked if he was good on the next series and he said, ‘Yeah, that was a legal hit.'”

Sherman’s opinion doesn’t matter. Ultimately, the league office’s opinion doesn’t, either. The question here becomes whether the hearing officer believes the hit was illegal. If it wasn’t, there’s no basis for disciplining Burfict at all.

80 responses to “Was Vontaze Burfict’s hit legal?

  1. it was a cheap shot. PERIOD.
    Everyone will be taking shots at the Kansas City Chiefs all year, because they are the strongest AFC team

  2. Burfict is certainly saying all the right things. His past may come back to haunt him on this play. A wise man once said, “What goes around, goes around and around”, or something like that.

  3. I am hardly a Vontaze Burfict fan

    but that is hardly indisputable evidence of an illegal hit. Giving him a 5 game suspension for that is pretty nutty.

    But the league can pretty much do what it wants when it wants.

  4. That’s the first time I’ve seen the hit. I was expecting something way worse. All I saw was a football player hitting another football player. You are allowed to hit a receiver within 5 yards, and the hit was shoulder to chest.

    He took cheap shots against Olsen twisting his ankle, and the hit to Antonio browns head.

    But this was a preseason shoulder to chest hit within 5 yards. Come on.

  5. Burfict is as dirty as they come but I don’t see a problem with this hit. If it was anyone else it wouldn’t even have been an issue. It is a contact sport. right?

  6. sabatimus says:
    August 28, 2017 at 11:28 am
    No, it wasn’t. He intentionally launched himself into his man with his helmet, hitting him in the head.

    ————

    So you are saying he left his feet andyhis was a helmet to helmet hit? I hope you are being sarcastic or you need to get your eyes checked…

  7. 5 games for playing football to rough…..

    hell i seen other dirty players like talib do worse than that during a game and not even get a flag.

  8. It seems like Burfict was trying to hurt Sherman on that play. That hit doesn’t need to be made. Burfict saw the ball had been released but he still launches himself at Sherman’s chin. I wouldn’t say the hit was illegal but the intent to injure seems like it may be there given Burfict’s previous behaviors.

  9. plus its hard to tell from the video, but was that within the 5 yards of the line of scrimmage where you can make contact? what if that guy was coming out to block him?

  10. With all be ex officials on the media’s payroll you couldn’t drum up a single guy to break it down?

    Looking at the video I would say that someone in the league is biased against him or the NFL is trying to make a statement. They might even expect the appeal to win but chose burfict to make it a headline and a big reminder for the players.

  11. Seems to me that a hit can be both legal and a cheap shot. Those two things aren’t mutually exclusive are they?

  12. He took out a guy looking back at the quarterback so either way it was cheap. If it is a coin toss on the angle and you need determining factors, it should be decided by whether it was a necessary hit and does the player have a history of illegal hits?

  13. drunkraider says:
    August 28, 2017 at 11:39 am

    5 games for playing football to rough…..

    hell i seen other dirty players like talib do worse than that during a game and not even get a flag.
    ———————

    There wasn’t even a flag on this play.

  14. The NFL allows guys like Mike Mitchell to concuss Tyler Eifert and Marvin Jones in the same game….say to AJ Green: “you’re next” and not do a damn thing. Burfict is targeted because he is the best player on a small market team that won’t make the league billions of dollars if they win.

    If he played for the Patriots or steelers, they would be building statues for this guy because he is an elite player.

    Hey NFL, ever wonder why more and more people are turning to fantasy? It’s more real than the crap you are designing.

  15. Everyone gets down on the league for all of the penalties for hits these days, but this is what happens when you have former players suing the league for head trauma suffered while playing. The League has to eliminate big hits because if they don’t, they will continue to payout huge lawsuit settlement fees that continue to eat into profits.

  16. Not the worst hit in the world. But, it does look like he left his feet to initiate contact. Feet leaving the ground plus contact to head or neck area is supposed to be considered “launching”.

  17. It doesn’t matter if it was legal or not. It was completely unnecessary. Hence the “Unnecessary Roughness” call

    What was the purpose of hitting someone defenseless like that who was in no position to receive the ball?

    1…2…3…4 times, how many does this guy get the benefit of the doubt?

  18. My view of it is not the majority based on the previous comments but it looks pretty clear to me that 55 hit him the receiver high and in the helmet. The receiver is looking back to the QB and not able to defend himself from the blindside hit that is about to happen. VB then hits him high, and hits the very top of the receiver’s shoulder pads and their helmets collide. The receiver’s head is hit hard and snaps back violently. If the league is trying to reduce hits likes this, which I agree they need to do, then they need to start suspending players who aim high like this. I would be surprised if this suspension was overturned.

  19. laserw says:
    August 28, 2017 at 12:15 pm

    I see a forearm raised and impacting the face mask as the head goes backward.

    Looks dirty to me.

    ______

    Yup, he raised his forearm all the way to the guy’s belly button…

  20. ryanlong1 says:
    August 28, 2017 at 12:09 pm

    Everyone gets down on the league for all of the penalties for hits these days, but this is what happens when you have former players suing the league for head trauma suffered while playing. The League has to eliminate big hits because if they don’t, they will continue to payout huge lawsuit settlement fees that continue to eat into profits.
    ———————–

    The problem is that this is just another in the long list of areas where the NFL is completely arbitrary. There are so many mixed messages coming out of 345 Park Avenue it is ridiculous.

  21. I have no dog in this fight. I slowed the view from the end zone. It appears the contact started at the high chest area but it also appears the FB’s facemark is turned around prior to his body starting to turn which leads me to believe the facemark was hit alone with the high chest area. Why hit high when he could have hit him in the middle to lower chest area and there would be no issue. Good luck with the appeal. I believe whichever way it goes, the “Roger isn’t unfair” chant will start and others will say he finally got one right.

  22. For Burfict, it’s easier to list his legal hits. But this one doesn’t fall into that category. He’s a dirty player & proves it again on this play. Commissioner’s List Indefinite suspension is appropriate for this guy.

  23. hoops737 says:

    August 28, 2017 at 12:16 pm

    It doesn’t matter if it was legal or not. It was completely unnecessary. Hence the “Unnecessary Roughness” call

    What was the purpose of hitting someone defenseless like that who was in no position to receive the ball?

    1…2…3…4 times, how many does this guy get the benefit of the doubt?

    ——————————————————————

    1 – there was no unnecessary roughness call

    B- – linebackers from Pop Warner on up are taught to (cleanly) take the guys out when they go across the middle, makes them think twice about doing it the next time, that’s why these receivers get alligator arms, and take there eye’s off the ball.

    Third – he’s NEVER gotten the benefit of the doubt.

  24. Perfectly good shoulder-to-shoulder takedown. Yes the ball was already out but if you watch carefully, Burfict took his eyes off the QB and set himself for the hit before the ball came out. Not a late hit, not a hit to the head or neck.

    Here’s the key: If he had wanted to do damage, he could have destroyed this kid given the perfect positioning he had. Just solid defense. Nothing else.

  25. That hit looked like a good clean hit I like to see in the sport. I don’t care for Burfict, but the NFL HAS to stop deciding that a guy did something based on his history alone and look at ONLY the act itself. Anything else is asinine.

  26. 1st, you can chuck a player inside 5 yds from the line. But it wasn’t a chuck. He led with the helmet to the head neck area which is CLEARLY a violation. Case closed !!
    2nd, His history of illegal hits or just plain dirty tactics preceeds him. The NFL has to get inside his head so the suspension of 5 games is appropriate. It’s obvious the Bengals coaching staff can’t get him to change so NFL headquarters has to do it.

  27. The ball was nowhere near Sherman and Burfict came in and clocked him. Suspension of some sort is warranted if anyone actually gives a rip about player safety.

  28. People here are slowing this tape down and looking at it over and over and still can’t tell if he went high. Most seem to think he didn’t…

    Maybe it’s not prudent to suspend a guy for 30% of the season for something that likely didn’t occur.

  29. Burfict looks at the QB and sees the ball thrown. Any linebacker clearly would know that that ball was way over his head. Contact with the receiver is just past the LOS, well within the legal 5 yards. But pause the video on the contact and look at where the ball is. This ball is intended to be completed about 25 yards downfield. The receiver he hits is not going to be getting the ball and he knows it. It may be within the rules but it is not a clean hit. It is very reminiscent of those hits that Hines Ward used to make. It is not a football play but a play intended to injure and remove the guy from the game. Same crap from an habitual dirt player. Regardless of what team he plays for.

  30. westernbuc says:
    August 28, 2017 at 12:50 pm
    The ball was nowhere near Sherman and Burfict came in and clocked him. Suspension of some sort is warranted if anyone actually gives a rip about player safety.
    ___________________________________________________________________________________
    Then Ryan Clark should have been suspended for the hit he laid on Welker once. The ball was not even going to Welker, and it was obvious. Clark laid him out anyway. I’m not a Clark fan, but that’s kind of how football works. Intimidation is part of the game, and that was not illegal.

  31. NFL rules are messed up. This was not even helmet to helmet, but if he had been a ball carrier it would have been legal to concuss him helmet to helmet, then recover the football after his arms went limp from being unconscious, with the play continuing while a player needs medical attention, and the defensive player would be a hero. That was essentially Done Whitner’s hit on Pierre Thomas in the 2012 playoffs. That is what should change. It is bs that receivers get their shoulders protected but running backs have the play continue after a helmet to helmet hit puts them unconscious.

  32. It’s crazy to me that people see a helmet hit first. I’ll admit I’m biased in this situation, but if you see Burfict leading with a helmet to helmet hit you’re either blind or you decided guilt based on his history alone.

  33. chrispin53 says:
    August 28, 2017 at 11:31 am
    That’s the first time I’ve seen the hit. I was expecting something way worse. All I saw was a football player hitting another football player. You are allowed to hit a receiver within 5 yards, and the hit was shoulder to chest.

    He took cheap shots against Olsen twisting his ankle, and the hit to Antonio browns head.

    But this was a preseason shoulder to chest hit within 5 yards. Come on.

    ______________________________________________I

    I 100% agree, but the only issue I with it personally is that Burfict is a starter no question opening day. However, for him to lay out a dude with that hit in preseason is pretty shady. He didnt have to lay the kid out, everyone is trying to stay healthy for the regular season. A bump and a keep your head up kid would have been the professional thing to do. Regular season? Have at it.

  34. The video was not from the best of angles.
    I can see why it was considered an illegal hit.
    I think characterizing it as “While there may have been some minor, incidental contact with Sherman’s facemask,” is both misleading and biased.
    I think it’s pretty clear that he at LEAST made contact with it AFTER hitting the chest if not at the same time.
    If you (especially having a reputation for dirty play) don’t want to be accused then try NOT making hits that close to the head, especially when it’s not necessary.
    A pre-season game where the ball was already gone, and the receiver NOT in the play and you hit the defenseless player about 1 centimeter from the head and want the benefit of the doubt?

    Please child….

  35. Legal hit. They have pads and helmets on. If this is anybody else besides Burfict it’s a non-issue.

  36. shracerx says:
    August 28, 2017 at 12:03 pm

    If he played for the Patriots or steelers, they would be building statues for this guy because he is an elite player.

    *****************

    I wouldn’t go that far. If he played for the Pats, they merely would have penalize the receiver for getting in Burfict’s his way and inducing the hit (after Brady complained, of course).

  37. I don’t see contact to the head, at least not on purpose. What I do see is an intentional hit on a guy who is running a pass route, after the ball is in the air. It seems clear that Burfict intended to go after him, whether necessary or not. The receiver is looking for the ball, Burfict is looking to hit him. Is this illegal? I suspect it’s unnecessary roughness. What will get him in trouble is the intent; he was headhunting, and I don’t think the front office will appreciate that; legal or not.

  38. If the league suspends Burfict for that hit, it only proves that Rodger needs to go! Not one thing dirty or cheap about that hit, just playing football. The guy that took the hit didn’t even have a problem with it.

  39. shracerx says:
    August 28, 2017 at 12:03 pm

    If he played for the Patriots or steelers, they would be building statues for this guy because he is an elite player.
    __________________________________________________________

    Really? Because yeah, Brady didn’t get rail roaded…

  40. 5 games for that? You’ve gotta be kidding me… A few years ago that’s a “hard, tough” football play. Now it’s worth a 5 game suspension? You gotta figure that’s mostly based on Burfict’s history, but come on. It’s football! This is a sad testament to how truly pathetic the NFL has become. Might as well take away the helmets and pads, give them flags and be done with it.

  41. Iknowitall says:
    August 28, 2017 at 11:26 am
    it was a cheap shot. PERIOD.
    Everyone will be taking shots at the Kansas City Chiefs all year, because they are the strongest AFC team
    ——
    One thing I’ve learned about NFL fans through the years especially with the NFL crackdown over the past decade on hard hits…..if they don’t like a hit and it’s legal by definition their fall back is cheap shot. Unlike legal vs illegal there’s no definition for cheap shot so anyone can throw that around. Well here’s news for you buddy…the only thing that matters in this situation is legal/illegal hit PERIOD. Your opinion on whether it was a cheap shot is bunkus.

  42. laserw says:
    August 28, 2017 at 12:15 pm

    I see a forearm raised and impacting the face mask as the head goes backward.

    ——————————————————————————————-
    Apparently people see what they want to see.
    To act like that hit on a FB is dirty enough for a suspension but the guys who keep blindsiding the truly defenseless punters never are seems strange.
    I stopped spending money on any NFL product 2 years ago because of BS like this.I may never be able to give up watching on free tv but i feel much better knowing i`m not contributing to Goodell`s salary any more. The NFL office is as corrupt as any business i`ve ever seen.

  43. It was legal but definitely a cheap shot and a blindside hit, not as the bengals say from the front.. The play was going to be 30 yards behind Burfict in a pre-season game. If the play was taking place in his area I don’t think he gets suspended during the regular season.

  44. My question is why does Burfict constantly put himself in position to be suspended???

    He has a history of this and is a repeat offender. You know you won’t get the benefit of the doubt. The play was clearly away from that player so the legality of the hit isn’t even in question in my opinion(it was within 5 yards of the line of scrimmage, hence “legal). It’s the “intent”. You are in essence making a play on a guy who isn’t even in the play at that point. Secondly, the NFL has pretty much eliminated “blind side” hits which it clearly was. 10 years ago??? no flag, no issue, no discussion.

    The other side of this coin is if you are playing against Burfict, you have to know where he is at all times…ALL TIMES!

    And for those questioning the “5” games, it’s because of the suspensions he’s accumulated up to this point.

    Not saying it’s right or wrong, just saying that this is today’s NFL and he still hasn’t adjusted.

  45. Kind of hard to give this guy the benefit of a doubt simply because of his past…. but this was a legal hit for sure. 5 games is insane.

  46. jocko1181 says:
    August 28, 2017 at 12:58 pm

    Maybe it’s not prudent to suspend a guy for 30% of the season for something that likely didn’t occur.
    ———————–

    That ship has already sailed. Twice.

  47. Having never seen the hit and having no knowledge of what actually happened, I can say with confidence that the answer to the headline question is “probably not”

  48. Wait a minute, how is it unnecessary? He is supposed to cover the Fullback. Inside 5 yards he doesn’t have to let him run the route. The Fullback is NOT out of the play, he is a check down. Burfict is not watching the QB he is running at his assignment, made a smart play by ending his route altogether, within the 5 yards of the LOS, and the contact is shoulder to chest. There’s incidental head contact as a result whiplash from the shoulder to the chest contact. However it’s Sherman’s head that makes contact with Burfict’s coming forward on the way down from the impact, not the other way around. Now defenders are supposed to calculate if a clean hit is going to look bad? And Sherman’s not defenseless. He has no reason to expect that between the whistles he gets to just run his route untouched in side 5 yards. If he knows his route, he has to know the LB that will cover him, and if he slept on that, shame on him. It was clean, and I guarantee it’s the last time Sherman runs that route without any awareness of his defender.

  49. Marc in Bakersfield says:
    August 28, 2017 at 1:11 pm
    NFL rules are messed up. This was not even helmet to helmet, but if he had been a ball carrier it would have been legal to concuss him helmet to helmet, then recover the football after his arms went limp from being unconscious, with the play continuing while a player needs medical attention, and the defensive player would be a hero. That was essentially Done Whitner’s hit on Pierre Thomas in the 2012 playoffs. That is what should change. It is bs that receivers get their shoulders protected but running backs have the play continue after a helmet to helmet hit puts them unconscious.
    _________________

    Same exact thing happened in 2015 playoffs. Ryan Shazier knocked out Gio Bernard with a clear helmet-to-face hit. Brutal. No flags thrown. Shazier celebrating on the sideline while Gio lays limp. It was a disgrace…but No flags and no fines were given. They said Shazier didn’t “line him up”. Watch the play and you tell me. Meanwhile, Burfict gets 5 games for this??? Preferential treatment, folks.

  50. He leveled a player who did not need to be leveled. Weather it was high or low should no be in question. The hit was not necessary if the ball was not intended for that player. That hit is no different than the Antonio Brown hit from two years ago. The only difference is that Brown was the intended receiver.

  51. Very, very dirty hit. That is BAD Football and BAD Sportsmanship right there.

    Hopefully Burfict will be totally out of the league at some point.

    That hit was 100% NOT necessary in any way shape or form.

    He went to the head area so I would say it was NOT a Legal hit.

    Either way, it was an unnecessary hit in a meaningless game.

  52. Twas a Hines Ward esque cheap shot….it’s definitely a lot tougher to hit somebody when they’re not looking vs when they are. Either that or make it a 10 on 1 like Antifa….

  53. “It was legal but definitely a cheap shot and a blindside hit”

    Lol how and in what universe was that a “blind side hit”. The receiver was running right towards Burfict but focused only on the QB. Here’s a tip when you go over the middle, especially within five yards of the LOS. Keep your head on a swivel so you know who’s around you.

  54. “How would it be legal regardless? You cant blast recievers while running routes. Just bizarre”

    You can hit receivers within 5 yards of the LOS and it happens all the time. If this guy had been paying attention to the field around him he would never have been flattened like that.

  55. ” That hit doesn’t need to be made.”

    Sure it did. Intimidation has always been part of the game and the whiny young fans these days have only seen Goodell’s watered down farce of NFL football. Hits like that used to happen all the time and are / should be a normal part of the game. Hits like that used to be applauded by everybody.

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