Early in Monday night’s game, Ryan Shazier was carted off with what was later determined to be a spinal injury. Unfortunately, that wouldn’t be the only scary injury to take place in the Steelers-Bengals game.
In the fourth quarter, JuJu Smith-Schuster hit Vontaze Burfict with a brutal hit to the helmet. Smith-Schuster was suspended one game by the NFL for the hit on Tuesday afternoon.
Burfict immediately tried to take his helmet off.
Smith-Schuster stared down Burfict as the Bengals linebacker stayed down on the field.
Burfict was carted off the field, and he gave the thumbs up as he left to the locker room. He was declared out for the rest of the game with a head injury.
So why was Smith-Schuster suspended?
It was similar in nature to the hit that Rob Gronkowski delivered on Sunday that got him suspended.
Gronkowski delivered an elbow to the head of Tre’Davious White after the whistle in the Patriots’ win against the Bills, which forced White into concussion protocol.
Smith-Schuster’s hit provided a similar threat — he targeted a defenseless player in the head and neck area, which forced Burfict to be carted off.
In his letter to Smith-Schuster notifying him of the suspension, NFL VP of Football Operations Jon Runyan wrote:
“You are suspended for the dangerous and unsportsmanlike acts you committed during the fourth quarter of last night’s game. Specifically, with 7:10 remaining, on a passing play to a running back, you lined up a defender and delivered a violent and unnecessary blindside shot to his head and neck area. You then “celebrated” the play by standing over him and taunting him. The contact you made with your opponent placed the opposing player at risk of serious injury and could have been avoided. Your conduct following the hit fell far below the high standards of sportsmanship expected of an NFL player.”
Head injuries are something the NFL wants to avoid, especially with the research that has surfaced the past handful of years.
After the game, Smith-Schuster said he didn’t know it was Burfict.
He told reporters he didn’t know it was Burfict:
JuJu Smith-Schuster said he had no idea that was Vontaze Burfict that he leveled. Apologized for the taunting penalty.— Aditi Kinkhabwala (@AKinkhabwala) December 5, 2017
Smith Schuster then took to Twitter to apologize.
I don’t have any intentions to hurt anyone when I play football. I didn’t mean to hurt Vontez Burfict, I just wanted to throw a block for my teammate. I apologize for standing over him and that isn’t me. Praying he gets better.— JuJu Smith-Schuster (@TeamJuJu) December 5, 2017
Antonio Brown called the hit karma.
Two years ago, Antonio Brown was on the wrong end of a helmet-to-helmet hit from Burfict that left the receiver concussed. Brown hasn’t forgotten about it:
As JuJu Smith-Schuster describes his block on Vontaze Burfict, Antonio Brown keeps yelling ‘Karma.' pic.twitter.com/rX6COmuxoE— Jeremy Fowler (@JFowlerESPN) December 5, 2017
After the game two years ago, Vontaze Burfict said that Brown had “faked it” when he was concussed.
Burfict let slip in a profile in ESPN Magazine that he thinks Brown was acting when he got hit:
"HE FAKED THAT," Burfict says casually of the Brown hit before quickly trying to wave his own observation away. He knows instantly how the comment will be received, and it's easy to see he wishes he hadn't said it.
After saying that Brown faked the injury, Burfict tried to explain his thoughts.
Later, Burfict returns to his account of the Brown hit, reluctantly drawn into an explanation very few will agree with: "I feel like he looked at me. The ball tipped off his hands and he kind of put his head towards my area, and I tried to fade off of him at the last second, but he initially tried to make contact because he knew he could get the flag. And just the way he went down, it was just like -- I don't know man."
This was the play in question:
So this explains why Brown is willing to pay a possible fine, though Smith-Schuster has now been suspended.