Vontaze Burfict might have a history of playing dirty but he has the full support of his coach, Marvin Lewis. The latest issue arose during last Sunday's loss to the Patriots when the Bengals linebacker appeared to step on running back LeGarrette Blount.
You can judge for yourself here:
Video: From coaches film (courtesy NFL), watch Vontaze Burfict (55) deliberately step on Blount's leg after TD. pic.twitter.com/wtTPqy3XHP— Mike Reiss (@MikeReiss) October 17, 2016
There is no definitive angle but the league reportedly fined Burfict $75,000 for unnecessary roughness. Burfict has appealed the ruling.
"I don't think he meant to do anything," Lewis explained, via ESPN.com. "And I've been through it back and forth as big as this board behind me," Lewis said. "Hell if I can see who steps where or whatever. I see him try to step through [the pile] and try to go help [a] teammate. ... Someone from another team has a hand on his teammate's face mask, pushing him in the face, and that's what he's trying to get to. But that doesn't matter -- it's done. We'll move on and things will happen the way they happen."
"I don't think he did anything wrong," Lewis continued. "We were not in the wrong here, in my opinion. And it's unfortunate. That's what I have told and stood on and will continue to."
And it's not just the coach; Burfict's teammates also support him.
"Look at the play with Martellus Bennett," left tackle Andrew Whitworth said, via ESPN.com. "Anybody that understands anything about football knows that that play was a pump fake where they threw it at the tight end. Vontaze put his head down and dove at the tight end's legs, like every linebacker in the National Football League does to tackle those big guys. And the ball actually zips right over their head. Martellus even stuck his hands up for a minute, thinking he was getting the ball."
Meanwhile, Adam Jones says Burfict has grown weary of the fines since his job description is basically "hired hitman."
"I don't have no problem with the emotion," Jones said. "Quite frankly, I think we need more guys with some more emotions. Do we need to control them at certain times? Yeah. But the man is being paid to be a hired hitman. ...
"There's only a couple linebackers that play with that type of aggression. Those are the great ones. Go back and look at it. I'm not saying Ray Lewis was a dirty player or anything, but him and Vontaze have the same characteristics. Exactly the same. It's just Ray Lewis grew up and found another piece of life and changed his way about doing things. Vontaze is young -- he's 25, 26 years old. He'll learn. I know he doesn't want to start getting fined because that's the first thing he says: 'Man, I just don't want to get fined.' I know its biting on him."
In related news: According to the Cincinnati Enquirer's Paul Dehner, Burfict has now been fined or suspended eight times in 53 games and it's cost him a whopping $805,000.
The Bengals may be fine with Burfict's style of play, but former VP of officials Mike Pereira is not. Here's what he said earlier in the week, before the league opted to fine but not suspend the Bengals linebacker.
"If it's a large fine and not games they don't have any guts," Pereira told the Enquirer. "I mean, the guy was suspended for the first three games of the season. So you pile on, you pile on punishment when you look at history, and he has history dating all the way back to college for God's sakes. Obviously it doesn't apply in the NFL, but I don't see how they can do anything but suspend him because it was not a football act. He didn't lead with the helmet trying to break up a pass. He didn't do that. This was just a dead, you know, cheap, intentional cheap shot. So to me, I'm like shocked if the NFL doesn't maintain some leverage here and get rid of him for another couple of games."