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NFL suspends Bengals' Vontaze Burfict for the first three games of next season

NFL suspends Bengals' Vontaze Burfict for the first three games of next season
Bengals linebacker Vontaze Burfict (55) hits Steelers receiver Antonio Brown (84) on a pass over the middle during the fourth quarter of an NFL playoff game. (John Minchillo / Associated Press)

Cincinnati linebacker Vontaze Burfict was suspended for the first three games of next season as the NFL began handing down punishments on Monday for an ugly wild-card playoff game.

The league also is reviewing the conduct of other players and coaches during Pittsburgh's 18-16 victory at Paul Brown Stadium on Saturday night that turned on penalties against Burfict and Bengals cornerback Adam Jones in the final minute.

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Burfict was penalized for lowering his shoulder and hitting defenseless receiver Antonio Brown in the head after an incompletion with 22 seconds left and the Bengals holding a 16-15 lead. Brown got a concussion from the play and reportedly is considered doubtful for the Steelers' divisional playoff game Sunday at Denver.

Burfict had already been fined four times for dangerous plays during the season.

Bengals players criticize Porter

Bengals players weren't happy with Steelers assistant coach Joey Porter, who was in the middle of an altercation on the field that followed Burfict's hit on Brown. As players and coaches milled around, Jones went after Porter and drew another penalty. The two penalties moved the Steelers in range for their winning field goal.

"I've got a ton of respect for those guys," left tackle Andrew Whitworth said of the Steelers. "Joey Porter is not one of them. He's not one of the guys I respect very much. He's a guy that has always run his mouth. He's always been disrespectful to people."

Caldwell's status uncertain

Bob Quinn, introduced Monday as Detroit's new general manager, said he has not decided whether to retain or fire Coach Jim Caldwell. The Lions went 7-9 this season under Caldwell, who is 18-15 over two seasons and has two years left on his four-year contract.

Griffin packs up

Robert Griffin III cleaned out his locker at Redskins Park, signaling the end of his days in Washington. The player known as RG3 is expected to be let go by the team that traded a trove of draft picks for the right to pick him No. 2 overall in 2012, then won a division title that season as Griffin was named NFL offensive rookie of the year. Griffin was replaced as starting quarterback this preseason by Kirk Cousins, and the most pressing off-season topic for the NFC East champions appears to be negotiating a long-term deal with Cousins.

Etc.

Seattle's 10-9 comeback win at Minnesota was the most-watched early Sunday NFL wild-card game on record. NBC said the game averaged 35.3 million viewers, up 25% percent from 28.3 million for last year's Bengals-Colts matchup in the same slot. Records go back to 1988. . . . Chicago promoted quarterbacks coach Dowell Loggains to offensive coordinator to replace Adam Gase, who was hired Saturday as head coach of the Miami Dolphins. . . . The New York Giants interviewed former Atlanta coach Mike Smith for their head coaching job. He is the sixth candidate to meet with the team. . . . Cincinnati offensive coordinator Hue Jackson, the seventh man to interview for Cleveland's head coaching vacancy, appears to have emerged as the Browns' front-runner. . . .Philadelphia completed an interview with former Giants coach Tom Coughlin, the sixth candidate the Eagles have met with. . . . Tennessee interviewed Kansas City director of football operations Chris Ballard for its general manager opening.

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