Middle linebacker Vontaze Burfict will not return to the Raiders this season. His season-long suspension for an illegal hit on Indianapolis tight end Jack Doyle will stand.
Appeals officer Derrick Brooks upheld the suspension following a Tuesday hearing challenging the unprecedented punishment for an on-field action. The NFL announced the news Wednesday.
Brooks is an independent arbitrator appointed by the NFL and the NFL Players Association. The former NFL defensive end played under Raiders head coach Jon Gruden in Tampa Bay.
Burfict appealed for leniency in a Tuesday teleconference that included reps from the players union and the NFL. Gruden also spoke on Burfict’s behalf. So did quarterback Derek Carr.
Those pleas, and Burfict’s argument the punishment was excessive, fell on deaf ears. It didn’t change minds enough to even decrease the suspension, which will be extended throughout the 2019 season. That includes the postseason, should the Raiders qualify.
The Silver and Black will be upset by this decision. They were bothered he was suspended at all for the action, let alone a full season. They were also troubled to find out through the media that the NFL was considering this type of action, based more on Burfict’s reputation as a dirty player than the hit itself.
Gruden told the media Tuesday he was hopeful the Raiders would have Burfict back playing with them at some point this season.
“I respect the league’s position,” Gruden said in a Tuesday press conference. “They have a tough job. At the same time, we have a lot of confidence that they’ll do what’s right. We want Burfict back. He has already been punished, and we hope he can return to playing soon.”
He will not play for the Raiders again in 2019. There’s no telling if he’ll play for them again, though defensive coordinator Paul Guenther loves him and could bring him back in 2020. Burfict signed a one-year contract during the offseason, and was named a team captain entering the 2019 campaign.
The NFL did not issue a new statement after the suspension was upheld, only re-sending the statement that came with the original suspension on Sept. 30.
Appeals officer Derrick Brooks, jointly appointed by the NFL and NFLPA, has upheld the suspension of Vontaze Burfict. Burfict is suspended for the remainder of the season. The original announcement: pic.twitter.com/Hs7zeNWETs— Michael Signora (@NFLfootballinfo) October 9, 2019
According to ESPN’s Josina Anderson, Burfict said during the appeal hearing that he was not trying to hurt Doyle, and that the tight end’s target zone was changing and that he was not trying to injure anyone. Burfict’s camp, per Anderson, also cited other vicious hits from that same week that didn’t result in a suspension.
Again, this has to do with reputation and past incidents as much as anything. Burfict has been suspended twice before for illegal hits and fined hefty sums on several occasions for such actions.
The Raiders find themselves precariously thin at linebacker, with Tahir Whitehead and Nicholas Morrow as their primary players at the position. Marquel Lee is on injured reserve, leaving Kyle Wilber and recent additions Dakota Allen and Justin Phillips in reserve. None of those backups have much defensive experience.