Bengals linebacker Vontaze Burfict and the Steelers renewed acquaintances Sunday, and it took all of 43 seconds of game time for Burfict to do something that may warrant another suspension. Even for Burfict, that’s pretty efficient.
Update (3:13 p.m. ET): NFL Media’s Ian Rapoport says there will be no suspension, though the play is still being reviewed for possible discipline.
At the conclusion of the second play from scrimmage, Steelers fullback Roosevelt Nix came crashing into Burfict after Burfict assisted on a tackle. From his back, Burfict responded by kicking both of his feet into Nix’s face. As ESPN’s Kevin Seifert noted, kicking at an opponent is considered unsportsmanlike conduct, “even if no contact is made.” No flag was thrown, but that may not matter.
The league identifies kicking as a finable offense, but those fines are minimums, with “severity to be determined by degree of violation.” Burfict has frequently been sent to the principal’s office: He’s twice been suspended for three-game intervals in addition to incurring more than $800,000 in fines for on-field discipline, per Seifert. Burfict began this season by getting slapped with a five-game suspension, later reduced to three games on appeal, for breaking in a rather confusing new rule against hitting defenseless receivers.
The league’s guidelines for game-related discipline spell out that Burfict could be looking at a fine or even another suspension:
“A player who is a repeat offender should expect more severe discipline, and fines for third offenses and beyond in the same season or based on prior seasons’ violations will be established on a case-by-case basis, and may increase substantially.”
That wasn’t the only incident between Burfict and Nix. At the end of this third-quarter play, Nix jogs past Burfict and appears to say something just before both players play-act into trying to draw a flag from the officials:
After the game, Steelers running back Le’Veon Bell called out Burfict:
“I just don’t like when guys kind of do dirty plays. It’s okay to play tough and try to hit guys hard during the course of the play—that’s fine. But I don’t like the unnecessary roughness, and things that happen after the play, like my fullback got kicked in the face. That’s just not football to me; I don’t think that’s a respectable play.”
Bell ratcheted up his criticism after the game: