Although the Oakland Raiders managed to get back into the win column against the Indianapolis Colts in Week 4, it appears they may have to go the rest of the 2019 NFL season without linebacker Vontaze Burfict due to suspension.
Burfict had been flagged for unnecessary roughness for a hit on tight end Jack Doyle during the second quarter and was subsequently ejected from the game after an official review. Regardless, he proceeded with business as usual after making the trip to London to take on the Chicago Bears next week.
The league has since officially announced his suspension for the rest of the season due to his track record with such hits. As a result, it seems his trip across the pond has been cut short.
According to NFL Network Insider Ian Rapoport, Burfict’s agent Lamont Smith says he is returning home to appeal the ruling:
Agent Lamont Smith tells me that #Raiders LB Vontaze Burfict is coming home. He was in London with his team, then learned of his pending season-long suspension that he’s appealing.
— Ian Rapoport (@RapSheet) September 30, 2019
While he is heading home, Burfict’s appeal is not expected to take place until next week, per Josina Anderson of ESPN:
Update: Vontaze Burfict’s agent Lamont Smith just told me, “there will be no appeal tomorrow. Most likely next week.” #Raiders
— ig: josinaanderson (@JosinaAnderson) September 30, 2019
Burfict is certainly no stranger to being penalized by the league and has earned himself quite a reputation as a dirty player because of it. He was suspended 13 times during his seven seasons with the Cincinnati Bengals and it clearly has not taken him long to pick up where he left off with his new team.
The 29-year-old was able to knock off a couple of games off his suspension with an appeal during the 2017 campaign, however, it is still safe to assume he will miss some serious time given the severity of the initial suspension. Any potential absence would undoubtedly deal a devastating blow to a linebacker corps that has already endured its fair share of struggle with depth this season.
Despite his repeated violations, Burfict managed to take full advantage of his fresh start in Oakland by being voted as a team captain and helping to establish its aggressive identity on defense. The onus will now fall on the other veterans and notable players in this group to keep that mentality going in his absence like they did against the Colts.
If the Raiders were not already concerned about the state of the linebackers before, they certainly are now. Linebackers Tahir Whitehead and Nicholas Morrow will be tasked with serving as a stabilizing factor while Dakota Allen and Justin Phillips continue to get acclimated to the scheme on defense.
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