The NFL denied the appeal made by Oakland Raiders linebacker Vontaze Burfict and he is now slated to miss the rest of the 2019 NFL season.
Burfict had been punished for his illegal hit on Indianapolis Colts tight end Jack Doyle during Oakland’s win in Week 4. He had been flagged for the hit and was later ejected from the game following an official review.
He was forced to return home from the trip to London in order to appeal, however, it was all for nothing after the ruling was upheld. It appears head coach Jon Gruden is still irked by the decision.
Gruden could not help but mention his disappointment with Burfict’s suspension, via Josh Schrock of NBC Sports:
“You got to have linebackers, you know,” Gruden told reporters Wednesday. “If someone comes out and wants to play old-fashioned, big-boy football, you got to have linebackers. Losing Burfcit’s big. I’m still not happy about it. I’m just not happy about it. We believe in player safety. We coach it, we believe in it, we really stress it. But 12 games, I’m not happy about that. I’m not happy about it. But it is what it is and we’ll get (Justin Phillips) and Dakota Allen and whoever the next man up is and get them ready to go.”
Gruden’s frustration is certainly understandable considering it was one of his key players that was barred from both the regular season and this year’s postseason as well. His absence is likely magnified by the fact that the Raiders have still managed to get off to a promising start despite the blows that were dealt to the roster early on.
Raiders defensive coordinator Paul Guenther, who was with Burfict in Cincinnati as well, as expressed disappointment in the league, via Scott Bair of NBC Sports:
Paul Guenther is clearly bothered by the decision to uphold Burfict’s season-long suspension. He called it “a witch hunt.” Said the league got what it wanted with Burfict. Said there’s no standard to follow with on field hits. Ha no idea one more infraction would end his year.
— Scott Bair (@BairNBCS) October 17, 2019
Burfict had emerged as the vocal leader of this defense and helped establish its tough, physical approach while also serving as their play-caller. It is safe to say that the suspension only served to create a larger void in a linebacker corps that was already dealing with its depth issues coming into the season.
Unfortunately, the statements by the league regarding the appeal strongly indicate that Burfict’s track record ultimately proved to be his undoing. The list of repeated violations and illegal hits that garnered suspensions was far too extensive for them much them to overlook, let alone show any lenience over.
Oakland is now relying on linebacker Tahir Whitehead to fill in as a viable replacement in Burfict’s absence on the inside like he against Chicago. Meanwhile, linebacker Nicholas Morrow will also likely see an increase in snaps as the season progresses.
There has been plenty of speculation regarding Burfict’s future beyond this season after signing a one-year deal with the Raiders prior to the 2019 campaign. Given Gruden’s willingness to come to bat for him, it will be interesting to see if he is brought back on another prove-it deal since his first chance at a fresh start has now prematurely gone out the window.
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