Sam Greene

Mack: Burfict Deserves Lengthy Suspension

Time for the NFL to finally get through to the loose cannon

Chris Mack
October 16, 2018 - 5:15 am

“What we’ve got here is failure to communicate. Some men, you just can’t reach.” 

Roger Goodell and the National Football League must feel like Strother Martin’s character The Captain in the iconic 1967 film “Cool Hand Luke.”

There’s just no way they’re ever going to get through to Cincinnati Bengals’ linebacker Vontaze Burfict.

At least it feels that way.

Transgression after transgression, illegal hit after illegal hit, injurious intent continues to run in the football DNA of the most dangerous player in a league that’s constantly working to clean up its image, cover its own legal arse, and protect its players, not so much because they hold a special affinity for any of them - at least not any aside from the star quarterbacks - but because they’re hopeful of avoiding future litigation.

Speaking of litigation, Antonio Brown knows a thing or two about lawsuits.

Perhaps he’ll expand his legal knowledge some day beyond his defense in an accusation of furniture tossing from the 14th floor balcony of a Florida condo and decide to file some suits of his own.

I know if I played in the NFL, I’d be teeing up a reckless endangerment charge for each and every time in my career I had to play against Burfict.

In each of the last two seasons, the loose cannon has served three game suspensions for violation of player safety guidelines, and racked up over $300,000 in fines over the course of his career.

Related: Dunlap: Burfict Can't Help Himself ... Just Watch

The wild part is that his fines in each of his last two instances of unsportsmanlike conduct, one of which came after kicking Steelers’ fullback Roosevelt Nix in the face, have been just $12,154. That’s the equivalent of you or I paying a $130 parking ticket.

I’m sure that’ll give Burfict pause the next time he’s considering putting an elbow to someone’s head, as he did to Brown this past Sunday in Cincinnati.

It’s not hard to see that the league has very little interest in slowing down Burfict’s instincts to injure. If they did, they’d sit him down for more than the three games he was suspended for hitting Brown in January 2016 or Anthony Sherman of the Kansas City Chiefs last August.

Instead, they’ll fine Burfict again. Maybe it will be a more substantial amount. Perhaps an appropriately large, six-figure sum for once again intentionally attempting to induce brain damage in an opponent. Even if they do act out of character in that regard though, the question remains: Will it be enough to get Burfict’s attention?

I’d doubt it.

Goodell and the NFL should seriously consider taking a page out of the National Hockey League’s book (And who in God’s name thought we’d ever be suggesting the NHL got player discipline right?) when it came to finally getting the attention of the Washington Capitals’ Tom Wilson. After yet another violent hit targeting an opponent’s head during the most recent preseason, a 20-game suspension was levied. 

You want to get the attention of someone who’s notoriously bereft of care or concern for anyone else?

Remind them that the game they love could be taken away from them in the blink of an eye, much as it could be for the players they’ve been guilty of attacking.

My bet is the NHL got Wilson’s attention.

My bet is that would take something similar - a six or eight-game suspension - for the NFL to wake up Burfict.

And I’d bet that if the league wants to look as if it actually tried to stop Burfict from killing someone on a football field someday - which, make no mistake, he’ll do if he’s allowed to continue running roughshod over his opponents without any legitimate recourse - they’d supplement that six or eight-game suspension with the threat of a season-long ban for his next offense, and a lifetime ban should there be yet another instance of intent to injure following that. 

If the league wants to do more than just pay lip service to player safety, and truly protect themselves from future litigation - which, as we all know is the only true motivation at 345 Park Avenue aside from profit - they’d do well to be very clear with Burfict: If this nonsense continues, you will lose the privilege of playing in the NFL. 

If they fail to reach Burfict this time around, it will be just another failure to communicate.