Vontaze Burfict Already Has Personal Foul In Return From Suspension; Bengals Already Disagree

It didn’t take Vontaze Burfict long to get his first personal foul penalty. In the first game back for the Cincinnati Bengals middle linebacker after serving a three-game suspension as a recidivist defender for a hit he put on a defenseless receiver in the preseason, the veteran earned himself a roughing the passer penalty in the fourth quarter of the Bengals’ win over the Browns Sunday that negated an interception.

But was it deserved? That is what Cincinnati is wondering, though they, of course, are the least impartial of observers. Head Coach Marvin Lewis has habitually gone to bat in defending virtually every one of his player’s penalties over the years, which have cost him probably close to $1 million by now in fines and lost wages from suspensions.

On the play in question, Burfict was sent on a blitz through the leftside B Gap, unblocked with another blitzer occupying the running back, staying in for protection, so he was unabated to the quarterback. DeShone Kizer got the throw off before Burfict reached him, but it was well within the one-step margin.

So why did he get penalized?

It’s because he drove through the quarterback and into the ground, which, as I will show, quoting the 2017 NFL Rulebook, is roughing the passer. In Rule 12, Article 9, subsection b, we clearly find the instance of violation that Burfict committed.

A rushing defender is prohibited from committing such intimidating and punishing acts as “stuffing” a passer into the ground or unnecessarily wrestling or driving him down after the passer has thrown the ball, even if the rusher makes his initial contact with the passer within the one-step limitation provided for in (a) above. When tackling a passer who is in a defenseless posture (e.g., during or just after throwing a pass), a defensive player must not unnecessarily or violently throw him down and land on top of him with all or most of the defender’s weight. Instead, the defensive player must strive to wrap up the passer with the defensive player’s arms and not land on the passer with all or most of his body weight.

The bolded section is my highlight, and in my opinion makes it unambiguous that Burfict committed a foul on the play, as the replay enclosed in this article shows. Burfict clearly unnecessarily drove Kizer down after he threw the ball, even though the initial contact was within the one-step limitation. He also unnecessarily landed on top of the quarterback with most of his body weight.

Much to the Bengals’ perplexity, the rule book seems to clearly legislate against what Burfict did on this play, and to the chagrin of the team’s beat writers and coaching staff, he is not simply a ‘victim of his own perception’.

That is not to say that this particular play is malicious and indicative of intentionally dangerous play, but it is clearly in violation of the rule as it is written, and not just because it was Burfict. Ryan Shazier, Cameron Heyward, and T.J. Watt have had as or even more questionable roughing penalties go against them this year.

About the Author

Matthew Marczi
Passionate Steelers fan with a bit of writing ability. Connoisseur of loud music. Follow me on Twitter @mmarczi.
  • DirtDawg1964

    If that was Bud Dupree we’d be unhappy about the call. However, Vomitaze (yes, on purpose), lifts his feet a bit to get a little more leverage on the hit. If he’d stayed more in his feet through the hit he might have gotten away with it.

    No matter what, I don’t feel for him, Marvelous Marvin, or Bungles fans.

    One of my favourite Steeler moments will remain the Bungles’ playoff loss to us a few years back. Hotter than Hades when Vomitaze intercepted that pass and ran out of the tunnel. Then incredulous when they fumbled. Beyond happy with the penalties to set up the winning FG. I will go to my deathbed knowing we completely robbed them of a victory there and it was their hubris and stupidity that led to it.

  • 太阳三联

    Fxck Burfict.

  • Ichabod

    I need an explanation about the one step rule.
    It looks like he takes two steps after ball is let go as I see it. (Though I do wear glasses)

  • Beaver Falls Hosiery

    This is similar to a quarterback hit Deebo got penalized & fined for against the Bills a few years ago.The referees explanation at the time is that he landed with his “full weight” on the quarterback. I thought it was a BS call then; and even though Burfict is an unrepentant thug still call this BS.

  • Beaver Falls Hosiery

    Here, use mine.

  • Sam Clonch

    The Boo Hoo Bengals.

  • NCSteel

    Same thing happened last night in Tampa game, same result ( well, I think that call may haveen roughing).
    Point is teach him, coach him Marvin Jones.
    Who’s worse…the agressor or the apologist/enabler ?

  • falconsaftey43

    This kind of stuff just makes the Bengals staff look stupid. I can understand thinking it didn’t warrant a flag, but their acting like they have no idea what the call was for. It’s clear it was for driving the QB into the ground. It’s a call most fans wouldn’t like if against their team, but it is in fact a penalty. Acting like you don’t know why it’s a penalty (or actually not knowing why) makes the coaching staff look terrible.

  • Steve Volk

    Really glad you posted this. I read an article in which the Bengals complained about this, watched a replayed and my head exploded. I’m feeling better now. He did not break his own fall and thereby the QBs, instead landing with his full weight on the quarterback. Penalty. Full stop. Thanks.

  • falconsaftey43

    I’m far past blaming Burfict for his penalties because at every turn his head coach is telling him he’s doing nothing wrong. Marvin Lewis needs to wake up. This wasn’t a malicious act, but it was clearly a penalty.

  • Chad H

    It’s still football and that is not a rough hit. That is how we were taught in our youth football days.

  • Michael Mosgrove

    I think burfict is a piece of crap but this call, mehh.

  • JNick

    I can see the penalty, but also don’t understand the rule. You can hit them with 1 yard, but not too hard…

  • NCSteel

    Exactly the point.
    How dis it get to this point anyway ?
    By overlooking the axtions and making excuses.
    You create Frankenstein,
    then don’t complain when the good townsfolk light up their torches and grab their pitchforks !

  • pcantidote

    It’s a close call, probably not a penalty, but the Bengals deserve everything they get with this loser.

  • pcantidote

    Exactly. I am so tired of the NFL trying to determine intent in tackles. Landed with full weight is another way of saying driving all the way through the tackle to make sure they are on the ground. The minute people stop doing that is when people stop finishing and tackles are broken.

    Having said all that, Burfict is a loser and the Bengals deserve these reputation calls that he is going to get.

  • JT

    I think his issue is also dropping his head to really spear him. If he was looking up, he could see when he released the ball, and any sort of pull-back or hesitation may earn him the benefit of doubt.

    I love good, hard hitting Steelers-Ravens type football as much as the next guy. But I see why they’re trying to stop QBs getting obliterated for no good reason. Burfict already forced the pressure, whether he spears the QB or not.

  • MDSteelerfan

    Burfict has earned the “ass-colored” glasses through which he is viewed by all (except the blind Cinnci contingent) – including officials. His “benefit of doubt”, like Elvis, has left the building loooonnngggg ago.

  • T R

    Same here that was Lil more then 1 step. And it was definitely intentionally driving him to ground. He had plenty time to let up and just push or run into Kizer with out wrapping up

  • T R

    Nothing Bs about that call per the rules.

  • Matt Rippin

    As much as I dislike Burfict (and Lewis, for that matter), this is bad lawmaking. Words like “intimidating,” “punishing” and “violently” don’t belong in the rule book. Nor should the word “strive”; what the heck is the reviewable standard for “striving?” It makes the rule boundlessly vague and subjective.

  • T R

    Man it’s the QB without the ball. It be different it it was a sack and he still had he ball.

  • T R


  • pcantidote

    I get that, but how the hell do you know if it was “unneccesarily driving or wrestling down” or “landing with all or even most (LOL WTF does that even mean) of his weight”. It is just silliness and pure judgment that has no place in the game. Either put the flags on or accept that it is a violent game.

  • Brian Miller

    Pretty much their standard response to any penalty they receive, eh?

  • Brian Miller

    I assume the ass-color you speak of is a muddy Brown sir?

  • Brian Miller

    Look, it’s either this constant blaming the officials and calls, or taking an introspective look at your team and coaches and realizing you just aren’t that good…considering the Bengals history, none of us should be surprised. I personally hope they keep Lewis as HC forever!!!

  • Jeff McNeill

    If I remember correctly those penalties by the Steelers players above our head coach never attempted to defend any of those hits. That’s a big difference in our coaches.

  • I4giveSteelers

    nope not a foul, and if it is according to rule book, well the rule needs to be flushed

  • Big Joe

    Yeah, I’m questioning the call after watching it. It was close and I don’t think I’d have flagged it. I actually think I can see his head go down as he went in so he may not have noted the ball being released. If anything, what I thought I saw is him leading with his helmet vice his shoulder while wrapping up. Tough to tell for me anyway though I can see pike driving too with no attempt to break the fall.

  • Phil Brenneman II

    Normally I would be okay with it and say it was cool but it is his reputation (a well earned one) that is going to keep costing him. You lean towards him being that kind of guy so you automatically expect the worst.

  • Nunya

    Football is a physical sport, well it use to be anyways.
    -Mel Blount

  • MDSteelerfan

    Pretty much the opposite of “rose colored”… lol
    Everyone sees Burfict for what he is

  • Fred Sandusky

    He has lost all “benefit of doubt” and will be called every time. Deserves everything he gets!

  • tcirish53@gmail.com

    LOL!!!! Let’s see if Roger gets off his fat ass and shows he is REALLY interested in player safety!!
    This guy should be GONE by now!!

  • colingrant

    If it’s close, he’ll get called for it. Period. He and the Bengals should know this. He has to recognize and acknowledge he’s being watched closely and will never get the benefit of a marginal call from here on out. It’s the price he has to pay for past transgressions.

  • Beaver Falls Hosiery

    Looking at that clip; find it hard to see how Burfict could have avoided the hit; he probably didn’t even see that the ball had left the qb’s hand.

  • Beaver Falls Hosiery

    A spear is when you lead with th helmet with no attempt to wrap the opponent. I just don’t see it that way.

    As for lifting his head; that is a recipe fr a severe neck/back injury. Head and neck should be kept in line with spine. once you lift the head up alignment of the head/neck to the spine is gone making the tackler very susceptible to injury.

  • Applebite

    The league has fined Harrison for less…

  • JT

    I guess “spear tackle” is the more accurate way to describe what I meant. A spear tackle is when a player lifts another player such that they land on their back, head, or neck. I see your point that he’s not leading with the helmet. But Kizer’s feet definitely leave the ground. Which for someone who currently doesn’t possess the football, just seems like an unnecessary part of the game today.

    I’m not studied up on the matter, but they promote “Heads Up” tackling for a reason. I remember many times seeing Tomlin’s ad for the campaign played in stadium saying you’re supposed to see what you hit. If he did, he’d see Kizer no longer has the ball. That was my point.

  • PaeperCup

    No, typically that wouldn’t warrant a flag. HOWEVER, Burfict put himself in this situation. I expect, and hope that the refs are extra aware on Burfict involved plays. Yes, it may be unfair to be more strict on one player, but when that player has a history I think it’s essential. They did the same thing with James Harrison.

  • PaeperCup

    At the time Harrison built a reputation of being a “dirty player” and hard hitter. I felt he got calls against him that normally wouldn’t be called otherwise. I think Burfict is in that same realm. His dirt play has the refs eyeing him down. And to that I say, GOOD.

  • PaeperCup


  • Beaver Falls Hosiery

    The NFL created Harrison’s reputation as a dirty player when they changed the way hits would be enforced mid-season. It took him a bit to adjust but he had never had the reputation as a dirty player by twisting ankles and going for knee shots like Burfict.

  • Charles Haines

    NFL suspended Bryant for an entire season for sitting on his couch and smoking pot and this thug got a few games for TRYING to end AB’s career. Among others. Incredulous how Marvin Lewis and Bengals brass have allowed him to keep his job.

  • Beaver Falls Hosiery

    Seeing what you hit is different than raising your head up. In rugby; it is taught to look through the top of your eyes like looking over a pair of glasses. It is very important to keep the neck & spine aligned to avoid injury.

    You are describing a dump tackle; when you lift a player and bring them down with force. Spearing was always leading with the helmet and launching yourself with with no attempt to wrap the player wth your arms. Perhaps they have changed definitions. In any case, Burfict did not lift Kizer but the force of his tackle did cause Kiser to go off his feet as he was backing up – not dirty or cheap.

  • Matthew Marczi

    Yet they’re happy to point out all the supposed penalties against Mike Mitchell and other Steelers players that were not called. So it’s clearly nothing more than obfuscation.

  • Matthew Marczi

    The call was good. The rule, that’s up for debate.

  • Matthew Marczi

    If I recall correctly, the only defense Tomlin made was for the penalty against Gay, and that only because he believes the officials used the replay video to make the call, which they’re not allowed to do.

  • Matthew Marczi

    This is right in the rule book:

    “Note 1: When in doubt about a roughness call or potentially dangerous tactic against the quarterback, the Referee should always call roughing the passer.”

  • JT

    I understand. But he looks down while Kizer has the ball and takes several steps. It just looks bad.

    I don’t think it’s dirty or cheap. And that’s not why it’s a penalty either. It’s a penalty because they’re trying to remove useless violent hits from the game. And I can’t say I blame them. If the QB no longer had the ball, there’s no need to have them take that kind of impact. They’ve decided the NFL product (and players) are better off if they take away hits that don’t impact the play, and I can’t say I disagree.

  • Conserv_58

    Vontez, welcome to Deebo’s world. Your paycheck is going to be a lot lighter this week.

  • Conserv_58

    Totally agree. Intentional subjective ambiguity by the rules committee with the intent to fill the NFL’s coffers with fine money.

  • nutty32

    Terrible call. Kizer going to the ground was part of the natural action of 55’s hit. 55 did not drive his legs after contact or do any extra wrestling to the ground. Nor did he do any extra, unnatural pile driving. He didn’t do anything after the impact. It would defy the laws of physics for anything else to happen.

  • Beaver Falls Hosiery

    If he were a few steps away I would agree. Run that clip real time and he had no chance to pull up. Bad call IMHO and I think Burfict should not be allowed to play.



  • Steelsmoke

    It was not that long ago that I would say great hit and expect it from our D .



  • Romans5:8

    If the rule in question makes this hit illegal, I think the rule should be changed. It reminds me of hits that Harrison got fined for in past years. Steelers’ player or Bengals’ player, those types of hits should be a part of the game, in my opinion.


    I mostly agree, but it looks to me like VB’s feet leave the ground just so he could push all of his weight down on the QB when the fully hit the ground = assbag penalty called justifiably.

    As far as his enabler, Coach Lewis, they should both have been out of the league years ago imho.

  • PaeperCup

    Very True, but he did straddle that line between legal and illegal, ending up on the latter side quite a bit.

  • Beaver Falls Hosiery

    Yes, took him a while to adjust but he was targeted by referees. Other players would go unflagged and unfined for similar hits.

  • PaeperCup

    That’s just about when I started really criticizing the league, it’s rules, it’s refs, and Goodell. It was all cherry before then.

  • Arizona Living

    And the way I was taught to play hockey in my youth hockey days would draw penalties every time I stepped on the ice in today’s game at any level. The games change. Football has changed. That is now roughing the passer.

  • Milton Farfara

    Rule book? Are you kidding does anyone think that asshat can read it beyond the first paragraph. Burfict is a perfect example to any young/yet to be fathers of the perils of a child being dropped on his head too much. Yes that child will grow up to be a total (insert your favourite word for Burfict) moron. I like most non Bungle fans have long known what Oblivious Marv is blind to. That Burfict will never learn and should be considered the poster boy for birth control.