Oakland Raiders linebacker Vontaze Burfict’s extremely hard and often dirty hits aren’t a new thing. He didn’t pick that up during his first eight seasons in the NFL, or even during his time at Arizona State.
According to his family, he’s been playing like that for a long, long time.
Burfict was suspended for the rest of the season by the NFL on Monday after his dirty helmet-to-helmet hit on Indianapolis Colts tight end Jack Doyle on Sunday, which will cost him $1.16 million in forfeited salary.
While the singular hit itself wasn’t enough to suspend him for the season, it’s his long history of dirty hits that caused the league to act. He has missed 10 games due to suspension and has been fined more than $4.2 million before his latest hit. Raiders coach Jon Gruden said Wednesday that he’s not happy with the suspension, and Burfict is expected to appeal it.
Kids would run home crying
According to his older brother, Dashan Burfict, his dangerous play has been a thing since he was a child.
“He’s been playing that way since he was a little kid,” Dashan said, via USA Today. “It was kind of funny because kids back then when we were younger would go home crying to their mom because they felt like he hit them too hard or he was just being a little too aggressive.
“My mom had to defend him so many times.”
His mom, Lisa Lane, did just that frequently when he was growing up.
“It wasn’t even a knock on the door sometimes,” Lane said, via USA Today. “It was me coming in with my fiance at the time, my daughters, and I’d come in with the stroller and people would come up to me like, ‘Are you Vontaze’s mom?’ And I’m like, ‘Yes.’
“And then, ‘Can you please tell your son not to knock my son out tonight?’”
He even garnered complaints at the high school level, too.
At that time in the mid-2000s, though, there wasn’t as big of a focus on helmet-to-helmet contact like there is today — especially at the high school level. So he was able to get away with it.
“There were other teams that said, ‘He’s too hard,’ or ‘He’s coming in with illegal hits,’” his uncle, Darryl Jones, said, via USA Today. “But back in high school, helmet-to-helmet wasn’t seen like it is now. So he was able to get away with that stuff in high school … His coaches didn’t say like, ‘Vontaze, you shouldn’t hit like that.’”
Still, that doesn’t make his play right — and it’s certainly not safe. While suspending him for the rest of the season may be a bit over the top, it’s easy to see where the league is coming from.
Whether he knows that type of play is wrong or not, the suspension wasn’t an easy thing for Burfict to swallow.
“We both cried on the phone together,” Jones said, via USA Today. “Of course he’s taking it hard. He’s almost lost his right to play. He did tell me if they suspended him he didn’t know if he would come back and play again.”
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