NFL

NFL AM: Vontaze Burfict Suspended 3 Games For Dirty Play

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Vontaze Burfict suspended three games for safety violations:

On their own, you may be able to argue that many of the plays Vontaze Burfict has been flagged for could have been unintentional or at the very least were without malice. However, when you look at all of the plays the Cincinnati Bengals’ fourth-year linebacker has been flagged for, and the numbers of players he’s injured, it’s clear that at the very least he’s playing with no regard for the safety of his opponents.

This season alone, the Bengals’ linebacker has injured Le’Veon Bell, whose season ended on a Burfict tackle, Ben Roethlisberger and now Antonio Brown, who both left Saturday’s Wild Card game due to the Cincinnati backer.

Burfict’s teammate Adam “Pac Man” Jones, who was flagged for pushing Pittsburgh Steelers’ coach Joey Porter who came onto the field during an altercation after the play, joined The Dan Patrick Show Monday, and said he believes there was nothing wrong with his teammates hit on Brown, and that he believes the Steelers receiver was faking the injury.

“Nah, Antonio Brown was not hurt,” Jones said. “I know he was faking it. Go back and look at the play. If you go back in slow motion, you tell me Vontaze hit him in the head, or if his shoulder pads barely touched him.”

Pac Man didn’t stop there, he even went as far as to nominate Brown for an award.

“I think he needs a Grammy award for that one,” Jones added.

Jones also went on to say that while everyone is focused on his teammate’s behavior, there’s plenty going on both ways, and says the Steelers have issues with everyone they play.

“The point is, everybody want to talk about Vontaze and the way he plays,” Jones said. “But if you go back and watch the film, watch the film of the whole game. It’s not just like when we play against them, it’s every time they play against somebody. If you go back and watch the whole game in slow-motion, different part even when 73 (offensive lineman Ramon Foster) after the play kicks him in his heel — I mean blatantly, he’s just walking back to the huddle, he kicks him — they threw that one. If you go just go back and watch the whole game, you’ll be surprised with the film.”

Football is a violent game, and there’s no question that a large percentage of players in the NFL play the game right to, if not just past the line, but when you consider how many of these situations Burfict has been involved in it’s hard to argue that he’s not at the very least trying to send a message through his play. Now the NFL has gotten that message and they decided to send one back to the Bengals’ linebacker.

Burfict’s agent has confirmed that the linebacker will appeal his suspension, but considering this kind of play is nothing new, it would be a surprise to see the suspension levied out by Vice President of Football Operations Merton Hanks reduced, let alone overturned.

Patriots getting healthier before match-up with Kansas City:

The New England Patriots are in trouble. Nobody wants to say it because they’re the Patriots, and it seems Bill Belichick and Tom Brady always find a way, but this team is in rough shape after being hammered with injuries throughout the season.

For much of the first half of the season, the Patriots looked like the best team in football, even if it was only because we just couldn’t bring ourselves to believe in what Carolina was doing, but as the injuries caught up to New England it became clear that they were anything but a lock to represent the AFC in the Super Bowl again.

While many of us were shrugging our shoulders at New England’s struggles down the stretch and just assuming they’d be fine, it shouldn’t be overlooked that the Patriots enter the playoffs on a two-game losing streak, and lost four of their last six games. Even more surprising out of a Belichick coached Patriots team is that out of those four late-season losses, three of them came to non-playoff teams.

The good news for the Patriots is they’re starting to get healthier at the right time, and will have a couple of their more important players back when the team hosts the Kansas City Chiefs Saturday afternoon.

Defensive end Chandler Jones and left tackle Sebastian Vollmer were at practice Monday, but it’s unclear whether they’ll be able to go Saturday afternoon. The news is better for receiver Julian Edelman and linebacker Dont’a Hightower, who both expect to see the field.

The team also expects Danny Amendola to go Saturday, meaning Tom Brady and his banged up ankle will have all of his best weapons together for the first time in over two months.

Whether or not the Patriots’ offensive line can block well enough for New England’s recovering weaponry to work after looking atrocious the past handful of weeks will be another question. If they can’t, don’t be surprised if the Chiefs walk into New England and shock all of the Patriots fans who thought they last their last two games of the season on purpose to affect playoff positioning.

Yes, those people are out there. Lots of them. That’s how delusional New England fans have become.

Jaylon Smith declares for the NFL Draft:

Jaylon Smith is a special linebacker who was almost certain to be a Top-10 pick in the upcoming NFL Draft, and then he tore his ACL and MCL in the Fiesta Bowl against Ohio State.

After the injury, some wondered if the junior Notre Dame linebacker would opt to stay in school because his injury could cause him to slip in the draft.  Smith quieted those questions by announcing on YouTube and Twitter that he’ll enter the draft in April.

It’s unclear how far Smith could fall if he’s unable to work out for NFL teams before the draft, but his rare talent and the fact that he’s a pass rusher makes it likely that he won’t fall too far. Teams will be willing to wait for the kind of ability he brings to the table, so it’s likely the injury will cost him spots instead of rounds.

As scary as knee injuries are, Smith is one of those guys (see Todd Gurley) that you take because you know he can be a special player if he recovers from his injuries, which he is expected to do. The Notre Dame linebacker can rush the passer and cover receivers, and those gifts will almost certainly ensure that he’s a first-round draft pick this April if there are no setbacks during his recovery.


About Pat Donovan

Pat Donovan

Pat Donovan has covered the NFL for almost a decade and is a host and producer for the Tampa Bay Buccaneers radio flagship 620WDAE/95.3FM. Pat covers the NFC South and NFC East for Football Insiders. Follow him on Twitter, @PatDonovanNFL.