Cincinnati Bengals linebacker Vontaze Burfict confirmed Sunday night that he is appealing a five-game suspension from the NFL for a hit he landed on Kansas City Chiefs fullback Anthony Sherman during an Aug. 19 exhibition game.
According to Burfict, the appeal will take place on Tuesday.
“I’m crossing my fingers and hoping for the best,” Burfict said after arriving back in Cincinnati following the Bengals’ 23-17 exhibition loss to the Washington Redskins.
Here’s the play in question:
The NFL included new language in its rules this year to further protect defenseless receivers, and Sherman was an eligible receiver on this play. Protection is granted to “a receiver running a pass route when the defender approaches from the side or behind.”
The rules state a defender can’t do any of the following against a defenseless receiver: lower his head to use the crown or “hairline” parts of his helmet; launch himself with both feet leaving the ground or having his helmet make initial contact; forcibly hit the head or neck area with his helmet, facemask, forearm or shoulder.
Burfict, formerly a standout at Corona Centennial, was not penalized at the time of the play.
“We feel like this was a legal hit,” he said Sunday night. “I hit him in the shoulder. I hit hard, so it may have looked like I hit him in the head, but it was the shoulder. I helped him up and he said he was good and I asked if he was good on the next series and he said, ‘Yeah, that was a legal hit.’
“The rules say you can eliminate a receiver within five yards of the line of scrimmage as long as you don’t hit him in the head and I don’t think I hit him in the head.”
The Bengals expressed the same sentiment in a statement released Sunday night.
“The film shows that the hit was legal, that Vontaze engaged his opponent from the front, and that contact was shoulder-to-chest,” the team stated. “The club will support Vontaze in the appeal process.”
Burfict has been fined nearly $800,000 during his five-year career. He was suspended for the first three games of the 2016 season for the concussion-causing hit he laid on Pittsburgh Steelers receiver Antonio Brown during the previous year’s playoffs.