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NFL suspends Raiders’ Vontaze Burfict for rest of the season

Burfict’s lengthy punishment stems from his status as a repeat violator of the league’s player safety rules.

The NFL suspended Raiders linebacker Vontaze Burfict for the rest of the season.
Justin Casterline/Getty Images

Vontaze Burfict’s latest hit is the most costly of his career to date.

The Oakland Raiders linebacker will be suspended for the rest of the 2019 NFL season, including any potential postseason games, for his late helmet-to-helmet blow on Indianapolis Colts tight end Jack Doyle in Sunday’s 31-24 win.

Burfict’s lengthy punishment stems from his status as a repeat violator of the league’s player safety rules. While playing for the Cincinnati Bengals from 2012-18, he served two separate three-game suspensions in the aftermath of hits to then-Pittsburgh Steelers wide receiver Antonio Brown and Kansas City Chiefs fullback Anthony Sherman. He was also fined more than $165,000 last year alone for illegal hits.

Burfict also served a four-game ban in 2018 for violating the league’s policy on performance-enhancing substances.

”There were no mitigating circumstances on this play,” NFL vice president of football operations Jon Runyan wrote in a letter to Burfict announcing the punishment. “Your contact was unnecessary, flagrant and should have been avoided. For your actions, you were penalized and disqualified from the game. Following each of your previous rule violations, you were warned by me and each of the jointly-appointed appeal officers that future violations would result in escalated accountability measures.

“However, you have continued to flagrantly abuse rules designated to protect yourself and your opponents from unnecessary risk.”

After his ejection Sunday, Burfict blew kisses to the Colts’ home crowd. Doyle, however, was not fazed by the hit.

”I haven’t seen [the hit], so I can’t really make a statement on it,” Doyle said after the game. “I didn’t feel anything from it, so that was good.”

Raiders linebacker Tahir Whitehead reacted sharply to the news of the ban.

”No way that hit calls for that,” Whitehead wrote on twitter. “This (expletive) is getting out of hand.”

Burfict signed a one-year, $2 million contract with the Raiders in March.

”I’m not a dirty player,” Burfict said shortly after signing with the team. “I play a physical position, which is middle linebacker, outside linebacker. That’s physical. I can’t go in there playing patty-cake.”