ALAMEDA -- The Raiders were seething over Vontaze Burfict’s season-long suspension over his illegal hit on Indianapolis Colts tight end Jack Doyle, yet confident the unprecedented punishment for an on-field act would lessen upon appeal.
Jon Gruden and Derek Carr spoke on Burfict’s behalf. The middle linebacker himself pleaded for leniency on a suspension that was more about past acts and a dirty reputation than the hit itself. Such logic fell on deaf ears, and independent arbitrator Derrick Brooks upheld the original suspension.
Gruden bit his tongue when asked about on Wednesday, only saying he was upset over the decision.
Paul Guenther did not take the same tact.
The Raiders defensive coordinator, who has known and worked with Burfict for years in Cincinnati and helped the linebacker establish himself in the NFL, voiced his displeasure in no uncertain terms.
“It was a witch hunt from the beginning, quite honestly. Somebody from the league didn’t want him playing, and they got what they wanted. The Raiders are going to keep a close eye, and make sure everyone is being held to the same standard that Vontaze was. We had no idea that this guy – does it make any sense to sign a guy where, after one infraction, he’s going to get thrown out of the league for the year? No, it doesn’t.
“I think it’s unfair. I think it’s unfair to our team. It’s unfair to Vontaze. But we have resilient guys, and they’re going to fill in for him and they’re going to play for him.”
Guenther said the Raiders did not know another infraction for an illegal hit would end Burfict’s season. They never would’ve made him such a vital part of their defense had that been the case. At the very least, they would’ve added a durable safety net underneath him.
“Nobody knew that the next time he dropped the helmet a little bit and hit a guy that he was going to be done for the year. Absolutely not,” Guenther said. “To sign a guy like that and know that was going to happen makes no sense.”
Guenther took umbrage with the fact that, unlike penalties for violating policies on personal conduct, performance-enhancing drugs or substances of abuse, there’s no clear line of punishment laid out in writing for all to see and follow. That’s another reason why the Raiders feel Burfict’s suspension was excessive and clearly targeted at one specific individual.
“There’s no standard. That’s the issue I have,” Guenther said. “There’s no [protocol] that says, the next time you do this, you’re done for the year and maybe your career. I think it’s unfair. You can warn a guy, but you should put in writing that the next time this happens, you’re done. That’s where I have a problem. It’s unfair to the kid. It’s unfair to all the players around the league to not know what will happen. You give this guy a whole year suspension? I don’t think that’s fair. I don’t think that’s fair at all.
“Now they’ve opened up a whole can of worms for the next guy that does this. We have to make sure that if we’re going to do this to this one guy for going 38 mph in a 35-mph zone with the cop looking for one guy doing it, that all the players are held to the same standard. To me, that’s where I have the issue.”
Guenther is close to Burfict and was asked how the veteran linebacker is dealing with this massive setback and prolonged suspension without pay. In short: not well.
“How would you do deal with it if you basically got your career taken away like that, and not really know that was going to happen?” Guenther said. “He may never play football again. That’s a tough thing. He’s 28 years old, and all of a sudden, it’s done. Now that they know with the next infraction you’re done for the year, that’s a tough pill to swallow without knowing that was going to be the consequence. To me, that’s not right.”