Vontaze Burfict would have gone early in the first round of the 2012 NFL draft if not for his overly aggressive style of play and inability to understand how unnecessary roughness can hurt a team. This is a player who flies to the ball with speeds most NFL linebackers wish they could produce, yet penalties and fines have tainted both his college and pro football career. Burfict’s 150 penalty yards last season was second in the league, a sign of a player who can negatively impact a football team.
In the 2013 season Burfict had eight personal fouls and was fined three times for a total of $61,000 dollars. The three hits that brought on fines were completely illegal and unnecessary, the first being a hit against Jets wide receiver Stephen Hill where he lead with the crown of his helmet. The second was a $21,000 dollar hit on a defenseless Green Bay receiver and the third was a $10,000 dollar foul were he was seen “tapping” Ryan Taylor in the groin. Defensive coordinators have always praised Burfict’s edge and aggressiveness, but I doubt any would condone the intentional injury of another NFL player.
In last week's Bengal’s-Panther’s game, Burfict committed 2 personal fouls. The first was an unnecessary roughness call when he hit Cam Newton late and the second occurred when Burfict hit Kelvin Benjamin after a reception, also late. Burfict was also seen twisting the surgically repaired ankle of Cam Newton after a touchdown run, but the most noticeable and outlandishly dirty play from Burfict came when he he tackled Greg Olsen by putting him in an ankle lock.
Olsen stated to ESPN that, “a punishment needs to go beyond a fine. Guys like that don’t learn from that stuff. He’s been fined a 100 times for head hunting, and he did it to Kelvin again. You watch the film; thats just what he is. At some point, if the NFL wants to really say they care about guys’ safety, they’ve got to start putting guys out for weeks. Me and Cam are lucky we aren’t out for weeks, or Kelvin isn’t out for weeks. If you’re going to start putting guys on other teams out, then the ramifications need to equal that.”
The Panther’s kicker Graham Gano tweeted, “Unbelievable that a player would intentionally try to hurt my teammates twice. I hope the NFL lays down the law hard. #Unacceptable.” Gano went on to say “Seriously that makes me sick. There is no room in this league 4 something like that. We are grown men, have respect for the game and others.”
Olsen's position is strengthened by watching the following clips of Burfict while playing in college at Arizona State University. Burfict was penalized multiple times for illegal hits, but this particular play stands out, one that the NFL should take note of as it establishes a pattern of bad behavior.
Then again, maybe this form of illegal play started in high school. Looks like he should have been checked back then.