The hit in question occurred during the first quarter of the Bengals’ second preseason game on Aug. 19. After Chiefs quarterback Alex Smith released the ball on what became a 36-yard completion to Travis Kelce, Burfict leveled Sherman as he ran a route out of the backfield.
While Burfict was not penalized on the play, the hit may have been a violation of an amended NFL rule that grants receivers running routes protection from “unnecessary contact.” According to the rule, Sherman was in a “defenseless posture.” Prohibited contact against a player who is in a defenseless posture includes forcibly hitting the defenseless player’s head or neck area with the helmet, face mask, forearm or shoulder; lowering the head and making forcible contact with the crown of the helmet; and launching into a defenseless opponent.
Burfict was suspended for the first three games of the 2016 season for “repeated violations of safety-related playing rules,” including a hit on Pittsburgh Steelers receiver Antonio Brown during a playoff game that drew an unnecessary roughness penalty.
“The Bengals are aware of the NFL’s letter to Vontaze regarding a play in last weekend’s game,” the team said in a statement. “The film shows that the hit was legal, that Vontaze engaged his opponent from the front, and that contact was shoulder-to-chest. The Club will support Vontaze in the appeal process.”
“I’m crossing my fingers and hoping for the best,” Burfict told Bengals.com’s Geoff Hobson. “I feel like I’ve let down my teammates, but I also feel like I’ve done a good job with this. I only had one personal foul last year. We feel like this was a legal hit. I hit him in the shoulder. I hit hard, so it may have looked like I hit him in the head, but it was the shoulder. I helped him up and he said he was good and I asked if he was good on the next series and he said, ‘Yeah, that was a legal hit.’ ”
Burfict had four tackles and a 62-yard interception return for a touchdown in the Bengals’ 23-17 preseason loss to the Redskins on Sunday.
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