You can’t accuse the Oakland Raiders of not having each other’s backs — that’s for sure.
“This is straight bullshit,” linebacker Tahir Whitehead tweeted reacting to teammate Vontaze Burfict getting suspended for the rest of the season after a helmet-to-helmet hit against the Indianapolis Colts this past Sunday. “No way that hit calls for that. This shit is getting out of hand.”
Sharp words from one team captain defending another.
Whitehead helped hold together a linebacker corp and defense that held off the Colts in the Raiders’ impressive 31-24 road win. Normally, Burfict — a player with a history of league violations — is at the helm of the defense. He’s the on-field extension of defensive coordinator and mentor Paul Guenther. Yet, No. 55 was tossed from the game after a second-quarter hit on Colts tight end Jack Doyle. Burfict was flagged for the shot and, a few moments later and after replay review, was ejected.
Prior history is the common theme here, like it or not. Last Sunday, Burfict was seen throwing hands at Minnesota Vikings offensive lineman and missed. Couple that with the hit on Doyle and his past transgressions and it’s not a revelation to read what was in the NFL’s letter regarding Burfict getting shelved for the year.
“There were no mitigating circumstances on this play,” Jon Runyan, NFL vice president of football operations penned. “Your contact was unnecessary, flagrant and should have been avoided. 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.”
Raiders head honcho Jon Gruden acknowledged increased scrutiny was known before the season kicked off.
“It’s a tough decision, it’s a tough call. I think it was a flag,” Gruden began. “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 reportedly was on the team flight to London and his agent confirmed they will appeal the NFL’s decision. During that process, however, Burfict can’t participate in any team activities. He’s basically stag in London, which is an unfortunate but not unforeseen situation for the Raiders.
Still, this is quite the precedent for the league. The longest suspension for on-field misconduct belonged to former Titans defensive tackle Albert Haynesworth: Five games in 2006 for stomping on an offensive lineman’s forehead after said lineman’s helmet came off. Perhaps the appeal slashes the suspension in half or less, but it doesn’t look like a promising proposition.
Just look at Burfict’s file: $4 million in fines along with sitting six games due to hits and four more for performance enhancing drugs (PEDs).