Vontaze Burfict wasn’t intended to be a long-term linebacker solution for the Las Vegas Raiders in 2019, but his impact with them was noticeable in spite of being suspended for most of the season.
Burfict was brought in to be a stopgap linebacker, and one of his biggest assets was his experience, in particular with defensive coordinator Paul Guenther. Before signing with the Raiders, Burfict had played with the Bengals since 2012. Of those years, Guenther was his defensive coordinator from 2014 thru 2017.
Burfict’s familiarity with Guenther’s system was one of the primary factors behind his signing despite his alarming history with the NFL.
A Brief Look Back at 2019
Unfortunately for Burfict and the Raiders, that background reared it’s head after he was suspended in 2019. The hit that effectively ended his year happened against the Indianapolis Colts in Week 4 on a helmet to helmet blow to tight end Jack Doyle.
Burfict’s history of hits and suspensions undoubtedly played a determining factor in the NFL’s decision. That collision as well another one in the same game sealed his date. Sanjit T. of Just Blog Baby analyzed the other shot, which was on running back Nyheim Hines via his Twitter.
I don't see the launch with his Helmet, seems to me it's within 5 yards and the QB is rolling out so Butfict uses his Arms to blow the RB up. It's a Great Physical play by Vontaze Burfict. @King55Tez #Raiders https://t.co/l9uS98ls0z
— Sanjit T. (@Sanjit__T) October 5, 2019
Whether the hits justified Burfict’s suspension that ended his 2019 season after only four games can be debated. What cannot be argued is that his baggage cost him a chance to even defend himself despite head coach Jon Gruden and quarterback Derek Carr sticking up for him at his appeal.
For the short time he was on the field, Pro Football Focus gave Burfict a 62.2 overall rating. His final stat line (one pass deflection and 18 total tackles) was nothing amazing though that’s attributed to such a shortened season.
A Witch Hunt
Guenther himself expressed displeasure and disgust when Burfict was suspended. One thing that stood out from his quote is the team’s belief that another suspension could possibly end his career.
“For us to sign him and the history I had with this guy, with us knowing that the next infraction he was going to get was gonna end his season, maybe his career, I think it was a witch hunt from the beginning quite honestly.”
Whether Burfict ever puts on the Silver and Black again might depend on what the they want to do at linebacker. If they take one with one of their first round picks, our inclination is that he’ll be a Week 1 starter. Another factor is injuries and the aforementioned baggage.
Something to keep in mind as that the loss of Burfict was significant. His veteran leadership was sorely missed in what should’ve been an important season to mentor young defensive players.
• Hardest schedule
• Most travel miles
• Six-week road trip
• Lost Antonio Brown
• Lost Johnathan Abram
• Lost Dwayne Harris
• Lost Marquel Lee
• Lost Vontaze Burfict
• Lost Arden Key
• Lost Gareon Conley
• Lost Karl Joseph
• Over .500 #Raiders
— Raider Posts (@RaiderPosts) November 25, 2019
Raiders finish 7-9
Proud of this team considering:
– The schedule difficulty
– Traveling the most miles in the NFL
– Antonio Brown drama (F AB)
– Our rookies stepping up
– All the injuries
– Vontaze Burfict suspension
– Refs killing us #RaiderNation 4 Life excited for 2020
— Mitchell Renz (@MitchellRenz365) December 30, 2019
Whether the Raiders might’ve finished better than 7-9 had they had a healthy Burfict all year can be deliberated. Yet, considering what he did, it’s safe to say that if there’s no issue with the NFL, it would be wise to bring back Burfict for one more run.
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