Although football is a brutal contact sport, Cincinnati Bengals linebacker Vontaze Burfict has actually been too aggressive since joining the NFL in 2012. On Monday, the former ASU Sun Devil announced what everyone has already been thinking for years – he needs to change his style of play.
Burfict was suspended for the first three games of 2016 after his egregious hit on Pittsburgh Steelers wide receiver Antonio Brown during last season’s AFC Wild Card game. Brown was concussed on the late-game hit and Burfict cost his team the game as the flag put the Steelers in field-goal range.
“Like I told coach [Marvis Lewis], I wish I could take that play back because I probably would’ve hit him low,” Burfict said. “I don’t like hitting low, but I have to change because it’s getting flags because I hit him high or hit him in the helmet, and it’s so hard to determine where to the offender because they’re gonna tuck their body, and you have to pretty much tuck with them.”
Burfict has already received 16 personal foul penalties in the regular season and playoffs since his NFL debut. “I play hard,” Burfict said. “Sometimes it gets me in trouble. My style of play is aggressive, and [the game has] changed, and I have to change with it.”
The powerful hits come from his 6’1, 250-pound frame — a solid size for a middle linebacker. Despite his array of penalties and criticism though, Burfict has been an outstanding talent. He made the Pro Bowl in 2013, and this season, he racked up 74 tackles, 1 sack and 2 interceptions in only 10 games.
But if he wants to continue to be a big-time contributor for the Bengals, Burfict will need to let his on-field actions speak for themselves. Otherwise, he could soon be banned from the game he loves forever.