Vontaze Burfict claims that NFL refs are trying to provoke him to get into trouble

Bengals linebacker Vontaze Burfict doesn't like the way that he's been treated by NFL officials this season. In his first interview since being ejected from Sunday's game against the Titans, Burfict basically made the accusation that the refs in each game are trying to provoke him to do something he might regret. 

Burfict was ejected during the first half of the Bengals 24-20 loss to the Titans after making physical contact with down judge Jeff Bergman.  

"The refs, they come up to me, talking to me disrespectfully, wanting me to curse back at them, but me cursing back at them isn't going to help me," Burfict said Friday, via ESPN.com. "I don't have crazy flags this year. ... The refs aren't calling flags on me. It's more waiting for me to do something, and they see what happened first, but they are waiting for me to react rather than throwing something when they see a guy push me or do something that's not within the rules."

Earlier this week, ESPN.com actually reported that several Bengals players felt the same way: That Burfict was being provoked by officials on the field. However, Bengals coach Marvin Lewis didn't necessarily agree with that observation -- and didn't take Burfict's side -- when he was asked about the situation earlier this week

"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."

The fact that Lewis didn't believe him might have been why Burfict felt the need to speak out on Friday.  

"I'm not going to get a flag in my favor next time around, but that's the way they handle business, I guess," Burfict said. "I told Coach [Lewis] I'm just going to try to stay out of the refs' way."

Even if Burfict, who served a three-game suspension to start the season, has a reputation for playing dirty, that doesn't mean the officials should be using a separate rule book for him. Before being ejected against Tennessee, Burfict got called for an unnecessary roughness penalty that probably wouldn't have been called on any other player in the league. 

On the play where he was ejected, the ref put his hand on Burfict first. After that happened, Burfict said he wasn't trying to be malicious, he was just trying to get back to the Bengals' huddle. 

"I knew I didn't do anything bad," Burfict said. "Obviously, you are not supposed to touch the officials, but I didn't think I touched him maliciously at all. I pretty much said, 'Excuse me.'"

You can see the play for yourself below. 

The problem for Burfict is that he's never going to get the benefit of the doubt thanks to a long list of transgressions that basically spans his entire career:

Of course, if Burfict is telling the truth, then that's a problem for the NFL because the last thing the league needs right now is accusations that its officials are trying to provoke players into getting in trouble. 

CBS Sports Writer

John Breech has been at CBS Sports since July 2011 and currently spends most of his time writing about the NFL. He's believed to be one of only three people in the world who thinks that Andy Dalton will... Full Bio

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