Vontaze Burfict is no stranger to NFL discipline. The Pro Bowl linebacker has racked up more than $4 million in disciplinary fines and forfeited salary over the course of a seven-year career.
And, just two games into his 2018 season, that number has gone up:
Source: #Bengals LB Vontaze Burfict was fined $112,000 for multiple plays that constituted unnecessary roughness in Week 6 game against Pittsburgh, including the plays involving the Steelers’ Antonio Brown (11:19 in 3rd quarter) and James Conner (5:17 in 3rd quarter).— Ian Rapoport (@RapSheet) October 20, 2018
The league also told Burfict that he would likely be suspended for a similar action the next time.
The NFL looked into Burfict’s play in the Bengals’ 28-21 loss to the Steelers. On one play where he appeared to deliver a targeted elbow to receiver Antonio Brown’s head at the tail end of a crossing route.
On another, he led with his helmet against James Conner:
What did he say to JuJu Smith-Schuster?
According to Steelers players, Burfict also made a vocal effort to single out the players he wanted to light up all afternoon.
“He hits (Brown), then, literally, as I am under center for the next play, he points at JuJu [Smith-Schuster] and says, ‘You’re next,’” Ben Roethlisberger told the Pittsburgh Post Gazette. “How do you allow that stuff?”
You can see Burfict pointing at Smith-Schuster on the play.
This is the play Ben Roethlisberger claims Vontaze Burfict yelled “You’re next!” at Juju Smith-Schuster. You can see Burfict point at Smith-Schuster twice here. pic.twitter.com/WVLXCwtlPw— Mike Garafolo (@MikeGarafolo) October 16, 2018
“They were all making threats on me,” Smith-Schuster said after the game. “Burfict was out there lying, saying I spit on him, which I didn’t ... This was the most physical game I’ve been in. Their defense was coming after all of us. You could just see it with the talking, the pushing and shoving, the tackling, the extra stuff.”
That might not have been all he said. Burfict reportedly used a racial slur to a reporter from Pittsburgh after the game.
Burfict refused to address the media after the game and head coach Marvin Lewis denied knowing which play reporters were referring to when asked about the potentially illegal hit.
Marvin Lewis pretended not to know about the Burfict hit on Antonio Brown in his postgame news conference. A group of reporters gathered around Burfict's locker after the game. He grabbed his shoes and hustled into the training room. Refused a second request after that happened.— Ray Fittipaldo (@rayfitt1) October 14, 2018
Of course this happened against the Steelers
Few rivalries engender the kind of hate Burfict harbors against his AFC North rival. This is the fourth time his actions in a game against Pittsburgh have led to a five-figure+ fine.
None of those incidents were more famous — or more costly — than his playoff headhunting of Brown. The Steelers trailed the Bengals 16-15 in the final minutes of a 2016 Wild Card showdown in Cincinnati when Burfict nearly decapitated Pittsburgh’s star wideout.
The ensuing penalty helped push Pittsburgh into field goal range, where Chris Boswell would kick a game-winning field goal shortly thereafter.
The Steeles got some revenge last season, however — with a brutal 2017 block that put Smith-Schuster on Burfict’s bad side:
That play would earn Smith-Schuster a one-game suspension and sideline Burfict for two games with a head injury. Week 6’s showdown in Cincinnati marked the first time the two teams had met since then.
Burfict had already forfeited more than $1.8 million in lost salary this season after drawing a four-game suspension for violating the league’s performance-enhancing drug policy during the offseason. Another scolding increases that total to almost $2 million to the league’s favorite charities in 2018.