sports 4 days ago

NFL upholds season-long suspension for Raiders' Vontaze Burfict

East Bay Times — By Jerry McDonald East Bay Times

Oct. 09-- ALAMEDA, Calif.-The NFL upheld a season-long suspension of middle linebacker Vontaze Burfict Wednesday despite efforts by the Raiders to have it reduced at an appeals hearing.

The hearing, according to ESPN's Josina Anderson on Twitter, was "an hour and change" on Tuesday and included coach Jon Gruden and quarterback Derek Carr speaking on Burfict's behalf.

The appeals officer was Hall of Fame linebacker Derrick Brooks, who played under Gruden for the Tampa Bay Buccaneers from 2002 through 2008 and was a member of his Super Bowl championship team.

According to Anderson's unnamed source, the Raiders emphasized Burfict had gone 190 plays without being flagged before the suspension, pointed out other hits that weren't penalized, highlighted his role as a leader and team captain and made the case that Indianapolis tight end Jack Doyle had changed his "target zone" just before the foul.

The source also told Anderson the Raiders said Burfict played the role of peacemaker during an altercation between general manager Mike Mayock and wide receiver Antonio Brown.

Gruden said Tuesday the club had reached out to the NFL and made their case that the penalty was too severe and seemed optimistic the linebacker would be reinstated.

"They have a tough job. At the same time we have a lot of confidence that they'll do what's right," Gruden said. "We want Burfict back. He's already been punished. We hope he can return to playing soon."

With Burfict unable to play against the Chicago Bears, the Raiders played with two true linebackers-Tahir Whitehead and Nicholas Morrow-for the entire game. Safeties Erik Harris and Karl Joseph each played every snap, with Joseph playing some snaps closer to the line of scrimmage.

"Nick and Whitehead, they didn't come off the field the other night," Gruden said. "They played every single play. Morrow had an interception. I think Whitehead did a great job of running the show. Those guys deserve credit."

Burfict, 29, was suspended Sept. 30 for the remainder of the season for a helmet-to-helmet hit that drew a 15-yard penalty and an ejection from the Raiders' 31-24 win over the Indianapolis Colts.

NFL vice president of football operations Jon Runyan set a letter to Burfict which stated:

"There were no mitigating circumstances on this play. Your contact was unnecessary, flagrant and should have been avoided. For your actions, you were penalized and disqualified from the game.

"Following each of your previous rule violations, you were warned by me and each of the jointly-appointed appeal officers that future violations would result in escalated accountability measures. However, you have continued to flagrantly abuse rules designated to protect yourself and your opponents from unnecessary risk.

"Your extensive history of rules violations is factored into this decision regarding accountability measures."

Lamont Smith, the agent for Burfict, told NFL.com Sunday the league had found a second violation in the Colts game and questioned the league's intentions.

"I wonder how many other players they've done that for the last two or three years," Smith said.

Gruden was tight-lipped about the suspension, saying he wasn't happy about it. Carr gave an impassioned defense of Burfict, saying he is one of his favorite teammates.

Defensive coordinator Paul Guenther, who also coached Burfict in Cincinnati, pointed out similar hits on the same weekend that didn't receive discipline.

"I know Vontaze has been warned on some of the stuff, I just hope it's not a bunch of cops looking for the only guy (going) 38 mph in a 30-mph zone," Guenther said. "To be fair to the kid, he's done everything we've asked of him, he's been a great teammate, he was voted unanimously as a captain and I just hope that the league is fair to him."

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