Raiders linebacker Vontaze Burfict was suspended for the remainder of the season after a helmet-to-helmet hit on Colts tight end Jack Doyle last week, the latest in a string of egregiously violent incidents that left league officials feeling they had no recourse but to attempt to remove him from the field indefinitely.
Burfict is not playing today as the Oakland faces Chicago in London, and his appeal will be heard by former linebacker Derrick Brooks -- an independent arbitrator selected and compensated jointly by the NFL and NFLPA -- on Tuesday. There is strong reason to believe that Burfict, a serious offender of sorts with a deep history of on-field incidents, will indeed miss the remainder of the season, or at least a large chunk of it, league sources said.
NFL officials have been attempting to curb his behavior dating back to 2012, with the player falling out of the draft entirely, despite top-round ability, due in large part to character concerns. Sources said that Burfict, through past transgressions that include numerous fines and prior suspensions for repeated violations of player safety rules, has already spent significant additional time over the years with Troy Vincent, the league's vice president of football operations, as well as several of the appeals officers like Brooks and former receiver James Thrash.
Burfict has been warned repeatedly about the consequences of his actions -- in addition to even his formal fine letters and hearings -- and has been counseled by numerous league officials about the seriousness of his actions and the risk of significant injury to himself and others. Sources said the Vincent spent time with the linebacker in Cincinnati in the past -- Burfict spent his entire career with the Bengals prior to 2019 -- meeting with coach Marvin Lewis about the repeated offenses as well. Additionally, Burfict has spent time at the league office, where it was explained how continued violent behavior would result in greatly accelerated discipline.
"There is not another defensive player in the game who has anything close to his history with violent and unsafe play," said one source within the league office. "There isn't anything else like it. And it has to stop."
Burfict's behavior is familiar to the appeals officers, and NFL officials believed they had no recourse but to remove him from the field to both protect the linebacker and his weekly opponents given the extreme nature of his fouls. There was very limited interest in Burfict this offseason – with his play declining and his penalty accumulation not slowing down – but Raiders defensive coordinator Paul Guenther was a mainstay on Lewis's staff with the Bengals and has a long history with him.
Burfict was suspended for three games in 2016, and five games in 2017 (reduced to three on appeal) for egregious penalties, and was fined over $165,000 in 2018 alone for three illegal hits to the head of an opponent.