Bengals linebacker Vontze Burfict has always had a reputation as a dirty player, but now his reputation has hit new heights: he is now going after his own teammates.
— Jay Morrison (@JayMorrisonCMG) August 1, 2017
According to ESPN, this was a live drill, but didn’t include tackling. Running back Giovani Bernard is coming off of a torn ACL.
The two brushed it off after practice, with Bernard saying that Burfict slipped, but for the Bengals brass, this has to be concerning. Burfict’s reckless play has been well documented. He has racked up nearly $800,000 in career fines and was suspended for the first three games of the 2016 season following his slew on illegal hits in the 2015 playoffs against the Steelers.
Following the 2013 season, when he made second-team All-Pro, Cincinnati awarded Burfict with a four-year, $20 million contract. Since then, he has become a solid linebacker who has a penchant for drawing personal fouls and delivering late hits – especially against the Steelers, where he seems to always kick it into second gear.
The Bengals have been unable to control Burfict through the years and now the safety of their others players are at risk. Defensive Coordinator Paul Guenther claimed that Burfict “kind of got blocked into Gio and went down,” but it’s hard to buy that excuse, especially when that excuse has been used by him before.
This isn’t even the first time Burfict has gone after someone on the same team as him. Back in high school, he allegedly tried to injure quarterback Matt Barkley during a game. At the time, both were committed to USC before Burfict ultimately went to Arizona State.
Cincinnati can make a statement here by benching Burfict or even go as far as fining him, though past history has shown it doesn’t do much. A penalty on the team level, however, can show that the Bengals are tired of his act and it is time to shape up. Luckily, Bernard was not injured on the play.
Burfict is in the final year of his contract and overall, the headaches he has caused has not made up for his on-field talent. Going after his own teammate may be the final straw and something to keep an eye on during the free agency period next season.