Bengals linebacker Vontaze Burfict has been suspended without pay for the first three games of the 2016 regular season for repeated violations of safety-related playing rules, said NFL Communications.
It's the fifth time this season that Burfict has been disciplined by the NFL.
In a statement released by NFL Communications on Monday, Burfict was singled out for his most recent violation. The transgression came with 22 seconds remaining in Saturday’s AFC Wild Card playoff game against the Pittsburgh Steelers when Burfict was penalized for unnecessary roughness for using his shoulder to make forcible contact to the head and neck area of Antonio Brown, a defenseless receiver.
The suspension, imposed by NFL Vice President of Football Operations Merton Hanks, ruled that "Burfict’s action placed his opponent at unnecessary risk of injury and should have been avoided. The suspension will take effect at the time of the final roster reduction prior to Week 1 of the 2016 regular-season."
NFL Communications noted that "Burfict has previously been fined for safety-related violations four times in 2015, including a $50,000 fine for unnecessarily contacting an opponent who was out of the play in Cincinnati’s Week 17 game against the Baltimore Ravens."
Under the Collective Bargaining Agreement, the suspension may be appealed within three business days. Appeals are heard and decided by either Derrick Brooks or James Thrash, jointly appointed appeals officers who are compensated by the NFL and the National Football League Players Association to decide appeals of on-field player discipline.
The conduct of other players and coaches in the Bengals-Steelers game is being reviewed for potential discipline, NFL Communications said.