Commentary: Is ASU linebacker a dirty player?

USC QB MATT BARKLEY was quoted as saying ASU linebacker Vontaze Burfict was a "dirty player" prior to the Sun Devils' win over the Trojans. Barkley was later disciplined by the conference and ASU head man Dennis Erickson in his post-game comments seemed to conclude that Burfict, because he had a good game against Southern Cal, had been vindicated. In other words, everyone is missing the mark.

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Barkley studied game tape of ASU leading up to the game, as any player would do. He no doubt saw the multiple times Vontaze Burfict this season has led with his helmet, with no penalty being called.

Against Missouri, Burfict was shown in both live action and replays repeatedly leading with his helmet, aimed at the opposing player's helmet, while making no attempt to wrap up.

There were no fewer than three separate occasions in the first half alone that I saw on the television broadcast where Burfict's helmet struck the opposing player's. And a TV broadcast doesn't show nearly as much as game tape does.

On one of those plays, the Missouri QB absorbed a titanic helmet to helmet shot from Burfict with no penalty alled. Slowing it down on the DVR and advancing frame by frame, the non-call became even more egregious. The ESPN commentators, presented with a golden opportunity to comment during the slo-motion replay, chose instead to duck and cover.


If you want to see the play, you can. Unfortunately, you can't slow down the slo-motion replay like I did with my DVR, but it's still clearly evident on the replay Burfict lunges forward, using his helmet like a battering ram against the Missouri QB's helmet with no attempt to wrap up and tackle. Head here and scroll to the 28:00 mark.

The Pac-12 refs are better this year. Headed into Oregon State's game with Arizona on Saturday night (TV:FSN-AZ/FCS; 7:30 p.m.), there's less confusion, fewer blatantly wrong calls.

But they are blowing it, absolutely blowing it, when it comes to helmet to helmet hits.

Burfict isn't the only player, ASU isn't the only team and the Pac-12 isn't the only conference where the helmet-to-helmet hits are happening -- those have been plentiful and in multiple college football games through the first four weeks. The non-calls have been just as numerous.

I personally don't believe Burfict is a dirty player. I don't think he's intentionally trying to hurt anyone.

But neither the officials, nor his head coach, nor the media or anyone else is telling Burfict he's doing wrong by using his helmet as a weapon on the other guy's helmet.

The result is that someone is going to get hurt -- at the least, there's going to be an increase in the number of players suffering from concussions. Given all we have learned over the last few years about the debilitating effects of a concussion, those kinds of hits need to stop.

And the officials had best get a handle on it. Rapidly.

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