The Tez Burfict story is going to have some legs. It's unanimous, the linebacker has been bad.
Overheard after Saturday's AFC Bengals-Steelers Wild Card playoff in Cincinnati, an 18-16 Bengals loss that ended their season:
“Cincinnati has had a history of taking these types of players," NBC analyst Tony Dungy said of Burfict. "That’s probably the reason they haven’t won a playoff game in over 20 years."
Said NBC Sports Emmy Award winner and former Bengal Cris Collinsworth: “I’m still recovering a little bit from watching that game. That hit was horrific (Burfict’s hit on Steelers wide receiver Antonio Brown). It was a scary hit and obviously has no place in the game. I didn’t like when Ben Roethlisberger was cheered when he was hurt and taken off the field. A bit of an embarrassment for Cincinnati there. I will say this, Joey Porter being on the field, as an assistant coach, and somehow eliciting that response from Adam “Pacman” Jones is a problem, too. There has to be a way that you separate out the coach on the field and not being on the field. He basically had something to do with the Pittsburgh Steelers winning that game.”
Even a notoriously dirty player called out Burfict, and Burfict's coach, for hitting defenseless Steelers receiver Antonio Brown while leading with his shoulder in the final minute of the Bengals' meltdown against Pittsburgh. Brown suffered a concussion.
“If you can’t control your players, then maybe somebody else should be trying to control them," said Rodney Harrison, an NBC analyst, referring to the Bengals' Marvin Lewis, who it was announced Monday will be back as Bengals head coach next season.
Harrison was voted the "dirtiest player" in the NFL by his peers in a 2004 Sports Illustrated poll. In 2006, He was voted "dirtiest player" by 361 other players. In 2008, NFL coaches awarded the title to Harrison in an anonymous poll conducted by ESPN. He was fined and suspended multiple times, racking up more than a quarter-million dollars in fines by the NFL.
“You can’t give Marvin Lewis a pass," Harrison said. "These are the type of things that happened all year with Vontaze Burfict.”
“I’m not going to put it all on Marvin Lewis," Dungy responded. "To me, this is an organizational decision. Vontaze Burfict is first-round talent, but he didn’t get drafted for a reason. There were 31 other teams that said we are going to pass on this guy. Cincinnati takes these guys over, and over, and over again.”
Hitting a little closer to home, analyst and former Bengals Super Bowl quarterback Boomer Esiason says Burfict needs psychiatric evaluation. Esiason said Burfict is a dirty player on CBS's post-game show. He took a stronger stance Monday morning on his WFAN Boomer & Carton radio show, saying, "I personally think he needs a psych evaluation. Somebody has to sit him down and figure out what are his problems because it is screaming across the television screen that there is something psychologically wrong with him to play the game the way that he's playing it. I know that you want guys on edge and I know that the Steelers were going after him, but there's a reason why the Steelers go after him. And it's right there on film."
ESPN analyst Cris Carter, a Pro Football Hall of Fame wide receiver from Middleton, Ohio, had a reaction to the hit by Burfict on Brown in the final minute. On the Postseason NFL Countdown, Carter discussed the hit on a defenseless player, saying “Vontaze Burfict … not only in this play (a hit that drew a 15-year penalty), but this has been a continual behavior with him in the league. We’ve tried to take out hits to the head for the players.
“Let me show you what he did in week 17. This is not on the TV copy – on the goal line (Carter shows and explains a video highlight of Burfict’s off-the-ball hit against a defenseless Ravens player that did not draw a flag from officials in a regular-season game against Baltimore) … This is last week. You won’t see this on the TV copy. We watch a lot of tape around here. That was the coach’s copy. I was able to see that play. So, I wasn’t surprised by it..."
Carter added: “Not only are we trying to take hits to the head out of the game. We are trying to take the players out of the game that continue to play like this. I won’t be surprised if he is suspended for multiple games as we begin the 2016 season. But his continued behavior shouldn’t be allowed in the National Football League.”
Said NFL writer Peter King: “He (Burfict) was already in league purgatory for a huge hit on Maxx Williams that was not flagged in the Week 17 game against Baltimore. I expect for Vontaze Burfict to begin next year with a suspension from the NFL.”
Burfict was suspended by the league Monday for three games to begin the 2016 season. He can appeal.
More from Esiason:
"Earlier in the (Pittsburgh) game, (Burfict) takes a dive at (Steelers center David) DeCastro's knees after DeCastro puts him on the back down by the goal line. A couple series later or the next series, you see (Burfict) scrapping along the outside with no intention of trying to make a tackle. He's diving at DeCastro's knees trying to take him out and DeCastro luckily is defending himself.
"(Burfict) throws his entire body weight onto Ben Roelisberger when he throws him onto the ground to try to separate his shoulder, and that's exactly what happens," Esiason said. "Because his arm was bad, the ball was high to Antonio Brown and it leads to the Burfict hit. ... So we're all sitting there and we see that the ball is clearly not caught. It's clearly overthrown. And three steps later, Vontaze Burfict is lowering his shoulder into the jaw of Antonio Brown."
Esiason said the linebacker tried to injure Roetlisberger's knees last season. Earlier this season, Pittsburgh running back Le'Veon Bell blew out his ACL on a tackle by Burfict, one that Steelers players accused him of celebrating, but one the Bengals said was a clean hit with an unfortunate result.
"Watching Vontaze Burfict again and again and again and again, over and over and over and over and over ... every game there's something," Esiason said. "And every game there's another team that (the Bengals) are playing against that are calling him out to be suspended. The second time these two teams played (in 2015), he went after Ben Roethlisberger's knees and I said right then and there that the guy should be suspended for at least two games to make him realize that you can't do this stuff on the field.
"Is it going to take somebody to be maimed, or somebody to be killed by this guy, because it's anarchy on the field with this guy? Does he not understand the rules have been changed to protect the players that are on the field because of what is happening to the players that went before him? No. He has no clue.
"I'm telling you, he's got a psych problem. Guys like Deion Sanders stick up for him (on The NFL Network). I'm like, 'Come on Deion, he's got a psych problem. It's so stupid that you would even feel that way.' I saw that and I was like, click, turn it off."