Cincinnati Bengals linebacker Vontaze Burfict has been suspended five games for an illegal hit against Kansas City fullback Anthony Sherman in a 30-12 loss Aug. 19.
Burfict hit Sherman while the fullback was in a defenseless posture, violating a new rule put in place to protect players who cannot protect themselves.
Sherman is 1-yard beyond the line of scrimmage when Burfict leaves his feet and hits him as Kansas City quarterback Alex Smith throws a 36-yard pass down the middle of the field to tight end Travis Kelce.
Man, you can't ask for a better throw than this. Alex has looked good throwing the ball down the field this preseason in a small sample size pic.twitter.com/dH37s6a03d— Seth Keysor (@RealMNchiefsfan) August 20, 2017
The Bengals released a statement shortly after arriving home from their 23-17 loss at Washington on Sunday, in which they said they believe the hit was legal and confirmed that Burfict will appeal the suspension:
“The Bengals are aware of the NFL’s letter to Vontaze regarding a play in last weekend’s game,” the statement reads. “The film shows that the hit was legal, that Vontaze engaged his opponent from the front, and that contact was shoulder-to-chest. The Club will support Vontaze in the appeal process.”
The hearing to appeal the suspension is scheduled for Tuesday. Burfict told the team website he is optimistic the suspension will be reduced.
"I'm crossing my fingers and hoping for the best," Burfict said. "I feel like I've let down my teammates, but I also feel like I've done a good job with this. I only had one personal foul last year. We feel like this was a legal hit. I hit him in the shoulder. I hit hard, so it may have looked like I hit him in the head, but it was the shoulder. I helped him up and he said he was good and I asked if he was good on the next series and he said, 'Yeah, that was a legal hit.'"
Burfict is a repeat offender of the league’s player safety rules, the last violation of which — his hit on Pittsburgh wide receiver Antonio Brown in the 2015 wild-card playoff game — cost him the first three games of the 2016 season.
If this suspension is upheld, Burfict will miss home games against Baltimore and Houston, road games at Green Bay and Cleveland and a home game against Buffalo.
The Bengals already will be without cornerback Adam Jones for the season opener against the Ravens after he was suspended one game for his actions during his Jan. 3 arrest.