ALAMEDA, Calif. — Raiders captain and middle linebacker Vontaze Burfict is expected to have the appeal of his seasonlong suspension heard on Tuesday. A decision could follow soon after.
Burfict was served an unprecedented 12-game suspension — plus any postseason games — for repeatedly violating unnecessary roughness rules. Burfict was ejected from the Raiders’ Week 4 victory over the Colts after the league reviewed his helmet-to-helmet hit on defenseless tight end Jack Doyle.
While the suspension stemmed from that particular instance, its long-term nature was due to Burfict’s previous violations. In the NFL’s statement announcing Burfict’s ban, the league cited multiple warnings about Burfict’s on-field conduct.
Given Burfict’s history, he could have a tough time winning his appeal. NFL Network reported that the league informed Burfict of another helmet-to-helmet hit prior to his ejection in the second quarter of the game against the Colts. On that play, Burfict launched and delivered a hit on running back Nyheim Hines.
Burfict’s agent, Lamont Smith, told NFL Network that Burfict’s plan is to argue that the hit on Doyle was a football play. That may work for that specific instance, as Burfict was tackling a tight end who had just made a catch and was not down by contact.
But that argument may not be as effective for the hit on Hines, which was away from the play and could have been flagged, at least, as illegal contact — a five-yard penalty. If officials had caught the illegal helmet-to-helmet hit, it could have been a 15-yard personal foul.
According to NFL Network, Burfict also plans to argue that the league is making an example out of him since the previous largest suspension for on-field conduct was levied on former defensive lineman Albert Haynesworth in 2006. That year, he committed a deliberate act of stomping on an opponent.
Burfict had previously been suspended three times. He served a three-game suspension in 2016 and another three-game suspension in 2017 for violations of player-safety rules. Burfict also served a four-game suspension in 2018 for violating the league’s policy against performance-enhancing drugs.
Burfict’s 2017 suspension was initially for five games, but was reduced to three games on an appeal.
After signing him in the offseason to be the on-field leader of coordinator Paul Guenther’s defense, the Raiders are hoping for a similar result in this instance.
“I’m anxious to see what the appeal says. I’m not happy about it — at all,” Raiders head coach Jon Gruden said of the suspension last Wednesday. “I don’t want to say anything else.”
The Raiders played well defensively during the first game of Burfict’s suspension on Sunday, coming away with a 24-21 victory over the Bears in London. Tahir Whitehead shifted over from outside linebacker to call the Raiders’ defensive signals as the middle linebacker, playing all of the defensive snaps.
In four games, Burfict had 18 total tackles and one pass defensed.