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NFL bans Raiders LB Vontaze Burfict for rest of season after helmet-to-helmet hit

Oakland Raiders linebacker Vontaze Burfict was suspended for the rest of the 2019 season on Monday for repeated violations of unnecessary roughness rules.

The NFL announced Burfict’s punishment for the helmet-to-helmet hit that prompted his ejection from Sunday’s 31-24 victory over the Indianapolis Colts.

The league released a portion of the letter sent to Burfict from NFL vice president of football operations Jon Runyan:

“There were no mitigating circumstances on this play. Your contact was unnecessary, flagrant and should have been avoided. For your actions, you were penalized and disqualified from the game. Following each of your previous rules violations, you were warned by me and each of the jointly appointed appeal officers that future violations would result in escalated accountability measures. However, you have continued to flagrantly abuse rules designated to protect yourself and your opponents from the unnecessary risk.”

Burfict has three days to appeal, which his agent Lamont Smith confirmed on Monday afternoon would take place this week. According to Pro Football Talk’s Mike Florio, the suspension will likely be reduced upon the appeal. Two years ago, Burfict had a five-game suspension reduced to three games on appeal.

Smith told NFL Network’s Ian Rapoport that Burfict is returning home from London, where he traveled with the Raiders for Sunday’s game against the Chicago Bears and where he was when he learned of the suspension.

Any appeal would be heard by either Derrick Brooks or James Thrash, who are jointly appointed to hear appeals of on-field player discipline.

Burfict’s helmet-to-helmet hit on tight end Jack Doyle, who was on one knee near midfield after catching a 5-yard pass, took place Sunday with 11:34 left in the second quarter.

Burfict has amassed more than $4 million in on-field conduct fines during a turbulent seven-year stretch with the Cincinnati Bengals from 2012-18.

The 29-year-old Burfict was suspended by the NFL to start both the 2016 and 2017 seasons for violation of player-safety policies, and again in 2018 for violating the league’s policy on performance-enhancing drugs.

“It’s a tough decision, it’s a tough call. I think it was a flag,” Raiders coach Jon Gruden said of the play in question on Sunday. “It was very well-documented that the league was going to review those plays this year in New York City. So, that’s what happened and I’ll wait to hear what their reasoning was. But it was a penalty, he went in there with his head down, it was called and, unfortunately for us, it was an ejection.”

Burfict has recorded 18 tackles in four games with the Raiders since signing a one-year, $5 million contract in March.

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