Vontaze Burfict of the Cincinnati Bengals has been suspended without pay for the first three games of the season a reduction from the original suspension of five games, the NFL said Wednesday.
The ban was imposed on the linebacker for repeated violations of safety-related playing rules. He had appealed the original suspension.
In a letter notifying Burfict of the suspension, Jon Runyan, NFL vice president of football operations, wrote: “This is not your first offense with respect to illegal hits to defenseless players; to the contrary, this incident is consistent with your pattern of egregious safety-related violations including your hit on a defenseless player during the 2015 Wild Card game and your hit against a Baltimore tight end away from the play on January 3, 2016.… When players violate the rules intended to protect player safety on a repeated basis, and particularly when the violations carry with them a significant risk of injury to an opposing player … you must be held accountable for this continuing unacceptable conduct.”
Earlier this month, the NFL dealt Burfict a five-game suspension for a jarring hit on Kansas City fullback Anthony Sherman in the Bengals’ second exhibition game.
On Tuesday, Burfict and representatives for the Bengals, NFL Players Assn. and NFL had a conference call with appeals officer James Thrash. Former players Thrash and Derrick Brooks serve as appeals officers for on-field discipline and are jointly appointed and paid for by the league and union.
Burfict served a three-game suspension at the start of last season for violating player-safety rules, most notably with a hit on Pittsburgh receiver Antonio Brown during a 2015 playoff game.
In the case of the hit on Sherman, Burfict hit him while the fullback was running a route out of the backfield. The hit was not flagged, but the linebacker got word four days later that he was being suspended for striking a player who was in a “defenseless posture” and for unnecessary roughness.
Burfict appealed the suspension, and the Bengals issued a statement of support, saying: “The film shows that the hit was legal, that Vontaze engaged his opponent from the front, and that the contact was shoulder-to-chest.”
On Tuesday, Burfict defended the hit.
“It’s within the rules,” he told reporters. “You can hit the receiver in five yards, you just can’t hit him in the helmet or neck area. I hit him in the chest area. I guess they just have it out for me. It’s whatever.”
In other NFL news:
-- The Cleveland Browns traded offensive lineman Cam Erving, a former first-round pick, to the Kansas City Chiefs. Cleveland is getting a fifth-round pick for Erving, the No. 19 overall selection in 2015 who was a disappointment for the Browns. They tried him at center, guard and tackle, but the 6-foot-5, 313-pounder struggled at each spot. Erving has been sidelined with a calf injury in recent weeks and limited in practice.
-- Hour after the Browns released former All-Pro cornerback Joe Haden, the Pittsburgh Steelers signed him to a three-year, $27-million contract. Haden has been slowed by injuries, playing in only 18 games the last two seasons. The 28-year-old Haden made the Pro Bowl in 2013 and 2014 before the team signed him to a five-year, $67.5-million extension. Haden’s departure leaves the Browns, who went 1-15 last season, thin on experience and depth in their secondary.
-- The Green Bay Packers and free-agent linebacker Ahmad Brooks have agreed to a one-year deal. Brooks was in Green Bay on Tuesday to visit the Packers, who need to add depth at outside linebacker behind starters Clay Matthews and Nick Perry. NFL.com first reported the agreement. The 33-year-old Brooks was released by the San Francisco 49ers last week. He is a two-time second-team All-Pro.
-- Jacksonville Jaguars owner Shad Khan said he’s willing to flop home dates with the Houston Texans in an effort to help the city recover from flooding caused by Hurricane Harvey. The Jaguars are scheduled to open the season in Houston on Sept. 10. The Texans play in Jacksonville on Dec. 17. “The Jacksonville Jaguars will support whatever scheduling decision the NFL makes,” Khan said in a statement. If the teams swapped, the Texans would get three straight home games to close the season while the Jaguars would play three in a row on the road.
-- The Oakland Raiders signed wide receiver Seth Roberts to a two-year contract extension through 2019. Roberts was eligible to become a restricted free agent next offseason. Roberts has 70 career catches for 877 yards and 10 touchdowns. He played hurt last season after having a double sports hernia in training camp. He never told the team about the injury and had surgery in January. He still had 39 catches for 397 yards and five TDs.
Associated Press contributed to the notes in this report.
5:25 p.m.: Notes from around the NFL were added to this article.
This article was originally published at 3:55 p.m.