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Are refs taunting Vontaze Burfict?

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An anonymous Bengals teammate believes that’s the case.

It’s not a surprise that Vontaze Burfict was ejected from the game last week, but a Bengals teammate claims that NFL officials are provoking Burfict and antagonizing him on the field.

Burfict was forced to leave the Bengals’ loss to the Titans on Sunday for making contact with an official. There was a scuffle, an official tried to break it up, and Burfict knocked his hand away.

Immediately before that, Burfict was flagged for a questionable late hit out of bounds.

Burfict’s reputation for being reckless and aggressive precedes him. And the NFL doesn’t have a high tolerance for players getting physical with refs.

But an anonymous Bengals player told ESPN’s Adam Schefter that officials have been swearing at Burfict and initiating contact with him on the field.

“The Bengals player said he has heard officials cursing at Burfict on multiple occasions, and there is video that shows officials coming into contact with the linebacker three times in the past four games,” Schefter wrote.

A league spokesman confirmed to Schefter that Burfict’s concerns haven’t been addressed with anyone in the league office.

Burfict has spoken to head coach Marvin Lewis about it, but Lewis doesn’t think refs are treating Burfict differently.

"Officials have a job to do, and I've explained this to Vontaze, and he understands that," Lewis said. "They have a job to do and they are going to separate players, and players are in a situation where they are there. That's not what this is about, where the NFL should be.”

Lewis went so far as to say he would be “shocked” if refs were trying to provoke Burfict.

Burfict won’t be suspended for the incident on Sunday. He already served a three-game suspension to start the 2017 season for a hit on a defenseless player during the preseason and lost $1,400,469 in game checks as a result. He was also fined $12,154 for unsportsmanlike conduct after kicking the Steelers’ Roosevelt Nix in Week 7.

It’s not surprising that Burfict would feel like refs were singling him out. A player with his past naturally gets more scrutiny and very rarely the benefit of the doubt. But refs actually provoking him would be something else entirely, IF it’s really happening.