It’s hard to keep track of the number of miscues that come out of the NFL office in New York City. After all, you have a commissioner who basically serves at the whim of a consortium of fat cat billionaires and can ride herd on the players with no fear of repercussion, other than the somewhat pedestrian reach of the players association, which with the exception of being a force at the bargaining table, generally must stand by and endure the wrath of Roger Goodell and rely on a grievance and arbitration system that many feel is indeed flawed.
Case in point with the recent suspension of Oakland Raiders linebacker Vontaze Burfict, who once again used his head as a battering ram as he lowered the proverbial boom on yet another defenseless victim, this time Indianapolis Colts tight end Jack Doyle.
Yes, Burfict has been tagged with two previous suspensions for this type of cowardly behavior, and with the 12-game suspension covering the balance of the season and the playoffs, he now has the dubious distinction of being the recipient of the longest suspension ever for an on-field incident. Without hesitation, Goodell dispatched NFL vice president of football operations, John Runyan, to inform Burfict by letter that he is no longer going to play football or be paid for the balance of the 2019 season. Now taking into account his history, Burfict’s punishment really comes as no surprise. With two previous suspensions for like behavior as well as being shown the door for multiple games in 2018 when he tested positive for performance enhancing drugs, Burfict had a bullseye on his back from day one this season, and made it even easier for the NFL to crack down on the player who has “led” the NFL in both personal fouls (23) and unnecessary roughness penalties (15) since he began his troubled career in 2012. Now on the outside looking in as he tries for a reduction in suspension through a grievance process, the guy who the Raiders anointed as a team captain before the season began is clearly at the mercy of an arbitrator, and that isn’t promising either.
The real problem with this picture is how Goodell and his band of renown dole out the punishments. If you recall in the Ray Rice debacle, the NFL had to have video of Rice punching his girlfriend out in an elevator before it denounced domestic violence with a slick public relations campaign and put Rice on the curb for trash pickup. Since then, numerous cases of off the field player violence (some involving children) have been dealt with slaps on the hand, and far less consequence than what Burfict received, making this old scribe scratch his bald head repeatedly.
The NFL handed down this suspension at a time when it continues to throw money at concussion claims and while its television partners package the savagery of the game in regular highlight packages, which those who worship the game adore and long for.
Hypocritical? Sure, and while I’m glad both Doyle and Burfict walked away from the incident with no apparent injury, they both may suffer from a neurological standpoint somewhere down the road. That’s what the suspension was all about, right? Or was it simply yet another example of the NFL managing its future liability? I’m going with the latter, and maybe you should too. One thing is for certain, Burfict will play again, as there are owners who could care less about the health and welfare of a player, and will put him out there to add some “sizzle” to their lineup. Would he have received such a suspension for the aforementioned off-field violence the NFL continues to look away from? I doubt it, and that my friends is far more troubling than taking a cheap shot on a defenseless opponent.
Danny Bridges, who encourages everyone to support the domestic violence shelter of your choice, can be reached at 317-370-8447 or at firstname.lastname@example.org.