Vontaze Burfict of the Oakland Raiders will be out for the rest of the season after initiating a helmet-to-helmet hit during the Sept. 29 game against the Indianapolis Colts, the NFL announced on Monday.
The league said Burfict, 29, was suspended without pay for “repeated violations of unnecessary roughness rules,” including in Sunday’s game.
Rule 12, Section 2, Article 10 of the NFL’s rules state: “It is a foul if a player lowers his head to initiate and make contact with his helmet against an opponent.”
In a letter to Burfict announcing the suspension, NFL Vice President of Football Operations wrote: “There were no mitigating circumstances on this play. Your contact was unnecessary, flagrant, and should have been avoided.”
Here is the official announcement on #Raiders LB Vontaze Burfict, who is suspended without pay for the rest of 2019. Jon Runyan wrote: “There were no mitigating circumstances on this play.” pic.twitter.com/DdoXyTb5ax
— Ian Rapoport (@RapSheet) September 30, 2019
“For your actions, you were penalized and disqualified from the game. Following each of your previous rule violations, you were warned by me—and each of the jointly-appointed officers—that future violations would result in escalated accountability measures. However, you have continued to flagrantly abuse rules designated to protect yourself and your opponents from unnecessary risk,” he added.
The tackle happened in the second quarter when Burfict went head-to-head with the Colts’ Jack Doyle.
Burfict’s agent, Lamont Smith, told ESPN that the linebacker plans to appeal the suspension.
Smith said the 12-game suspension “is excessive and the play that triggered the suspension was a football play.”
#Colts TE Jack Doyle on the hit that led to #Raiders LB Vontaze Burfict’s ejection: “I just got tackled. I’m sure it looked worse than it was. I didn’t really feel anything from it. My helmet protected me.”
— Matt Kawahara (@matthewkawahara) September 29, 2019
“It’s a tough decision, it’s a tough call. I think it was a flag,” Raiders coach Jon Gruden told reporters after the game. “It was very well-documented that the league was going to review those plays this year in New York City. So that’s what happened, and I’ll wait to hear what their reasoning was. But it was a penalty, he went in there with his head down, it was called and, unfortunately for us, it was an ejection.”
Burfict was suspended for three games in 2016 for multiple violations of rules and suspended for five games the next year for hitting a defenseless player. The latter suspension was taken down to three games after Burfict filed an appeal.
Last year, Burfict missed four games because he violated the league’s policies on Performance-Enhancing Drugs.
Doyle reacted to the hit after the game, telling reporters: “I just got tackled. I’m sure it looked worse than it was. I didn’t really feel anything from it. My helmet protected me.”