Bengals player says refs are provoking Vontaze Burfict, Marvin Lewis disagrees
Burfict has a long rap sheet of on-field offenses, but was his ejection Sunday an overreaction?
Good news: Vontaze Burfict avoided suspension for the second time this season following his ejection from last Sunday's game for contacting an official.
Bad news: We're guessing this isn't the last time Burfict, the mercurial Bengals linebacker, has a run-in with opposing players, officials or league representatives.
Some of Burfict's Bengals teammates think officials are paying close attention to the linebacker and that attention has invariably led to more penalty flags.
"I think he's getting targeted a lot," wide reciever A.J. Green said on Sunday. "On some of those plays I don't think anybody else would make it. They wouldn't get that call. I think he just has a target on his back. That's the way he is. He's an emotional guy. That's the guy we want. I wouldn't trade him for anybody in the world."
But more than that, an unnamed Bengals player told ESPN's Adam Schefter that he believes Burfict was provoked by officials on at least three occasions in recent weeks. Those provocations, according to Schefter, included "officials cursing at Burfict on multiple occasions, and there is video that shows officials coming into contact with the linebacker three times in the past four games."
The league denied the charges though it's easy to conclude that Burfict's reputation had everything to do with the personal-foul flag on this late hit:
And, two plays later, the official's enthusiasm in throwing a flag after he was contacted by Burfict:
So you can understand why some folks might be talking conspiracy. But Bengals coach Marvin Lewis isn't looking for excuses -- nor does he think officials are provoking Burfict.
"Officials have a job to do, and I've explained this to Vontaze, and he understands that," Lewis said. "They have a job to do and they are going to separate players, and players are in a situation where they are there. That's not what this is about, where the NFL should be. So, get back to the huddle and get going, and that's the most important thing. We don't need to jaw with anyone after the play, any of the players, so that's important.
"It would shock me if those things occur," Lewis continued. "I know on occasions supposedly they have, but again, that would shock me."
Lewis added: "He has to understand. I've pointed it out in those situations. Sometimes what happens, you push back and it's the official. You can't do that. He knows better. We pay a price, we pay a price because he hurts us when it's on the field that way, and then he's not on the field, so both ways."
Here's a list of some of Burfict's transgressions that have previously led to fines and suspensions:
- He once went head hunting in a playoff game and concussed Steelers receiver Antonio Brown. Burfict was suspended for the first three games of the 2016 season.
- He's been accused of cheap shots to Ravens tight end Maxx Williams, Patriots tight end Martellus Bennett, now-Eagles running back LeGarrette Blount, and Steelers running back Le'Veon Bell.
- He missed the first three games of the 2017 season for his illegal hit on Chiefs fullback Anthony Sherman during a preseason game.
- He appeared to kick at a Steelers player last month but wasn't suspended.
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