Cincinnati Bengals head coach Marvin Lewis doubled down on his defense of Vontaze Burfict on Wednesday, saying the linebacker did nothing wrong on the play where Burfict appears to stomp on the leg of Patriots running back LaGarrette Blount late in Sunday’s 35-17 loss at New England.
“I don’t think he did anything wrong,” Lewis said. “We were not in the wrong here, in my opinion.”
The league obviously disagreed, fining Burfict $75,000 for his actions against Blount, and those alone.
Some had also questioned Burfict’s hit on New England tight end Martellus Bennett earlier in the fourth quarter, a play Lewis defended in his Monday press conference before video of the Blount incident surfaced.
“He goes on the pump fake,” Lewis said of the play where Burfict dives into the back of Bennett’s leg while the ball sailed over both of their heads to wide receiver Danny Amendola for a 17-yard gain.
“He (Tom Brady) pump-faked a couple of times and ended up getting sacks, or he pump faked a couple of times and made plays for them, and that was one of them,” Lewis added.
Burfict’s day went from bad worse when a few hours after being informed of the fine he suffered an ankle injury and left practice early, although Lewis said after practice the injury is not believed to be serious.
Wednesday marked the seventh time Burfict has been fined, with the fees totaling $271,454. And that’s on top of $502,941 in lost wages from his three-game suspension for repeated violations of the player-safety rules.
Lewis said those past transgressions were “100 percent” the reason for the scrutiny placed on Burfict in wake of the New England game.
“That’s the thing he knows he’s got to realize all the time, so it’s not the national fury all the time of what’s going on,” Lewis said. “I don’t think he meant to do anything. I’ve been through it back and forth (on a screen) as big as this board behind me. I see him try to step through and try to go help the teammate (Shawn Williams) that has somebody from the other team (Blount) that has his hand on his teammate’s facemask, pushing him in the face. That’s what he’s trying to get to.”
Several of Burfict’s teammates also defended him as more of a marked man than a loose cannon.
“He’s (targeted), but everybody knows what it is,” cornerback Adam Jones said. “At a certain point you just have to go play football and try not to let it bother you the way you play.
“Quite, frankly, I think we need more guys with some more emotions,” Jones added. “Do we need to control them at certain times? Yeah. But the man is being paid to be a hired hitman. There’s only a couple linebackers that plays with that type of aggression. Those are the great ones. Go back and look at it. I’m not saying Ray Lewis was a dirty player or anything, but him and Vontaze have the same characteristics. Exactly the same. It’s just Ray Lewis grew up and found another piece of life and changed his way about doing things. Vontaze young, he’s 26 years old. He’ll learn.”
Left tackle Andrew Whitworth was still upset about the assertion by some that Burfict’s hit on Bennett was dirty.
Whitworth said that narrative was based solely on Burfict’s past and not the facts of the play.
“Anybody that understands anything about football knows that that play was a pump fake where they threw it at the tight end, Vontaze put his head down and dove at the tight end’s legs like every linebacker in the National Football League does to tackle those big guys,” Whitworth said. “Martellus even stuck his hands up for a minute thinking he was getting the ball. The story is not that Vontaze got up and apologized to him and said ‘I didn’t realize you weren’t getting the ball.’ Martellus has even said that. The story is that Vontaze is a monster for doing that. Why? Because everyone wants a story. It’s not a story. It’s irrelevant to talk about it.”
Vontaze Burfict Fine History
Sept. 27, 2013;$10,000;Striking Green Bay TE Ryan Taylor in groin
Sept. 27, 2013;$21,000;Hit on defenseless Green Bay WR James Jones
Nov. 1, 2013;$21,000;Spearing against New York Jets WR Stephen Hill
Oct. 15, 2014;$25,000;Ankle twisting against Carolins QB Cam Newton and TE Greg Olsen
Dec. 18, 2015;$69,454;Multiple unsportsmanlike conduct penalties against Pittsburgh
Jan. 12, 2016;$50,000;Late hit against Baltimore TE Maxx Williams
Oct. 19, 2016;$75,000;Stepping on New England RB LaGarrette Blount