Paul GutierrezESPN Staff WriterClose
- Covered Oakland Raiders for CSNBayArea.com and Sacramento Bee for eight years
- Member of Pro Football Writers Association
- Previously worked at Los Angeles Times, Las Vegas Review-Journal and Sports Illustrated
ALAMEDA, Calif. — Oakland Raiders linebacker Vontaze Burfict, suspended for the season after Week 4 for what the NFL deemed an accumulation of dirty play, sounded off Friday about the league’s disciplinary system in the wake of Cleveland Browns edge rusher Myles Garrett hitting Pittsburgh Steelers quarterback Mason Rudolph with his helmet a night earlier and receiving an indefinite suspension. Burfict also had harsh words for NFL commissioner Roger Goodell.
“The NFL had to suspend somebody for that last night, since that wasn’t a football act,” Burfict told The Athletic. “My suspension was a football act. I was hitting somebody. I wasn’t taking a helmet off and swinging it at somebody.” Burfict told the site he was watching the game with his daughters, ages 4 and 2, and turned it off after the fight.
“I don’t want them to see that,” Burfict said. “Because that’s not what I do. That’s not part of football. I hit people on the field during the game. And they say that’s dirty, yeah, whatever. I get hit, too, during the games, so don’t complain. It’s football, bro.”
After the Raiders’ game at the Indianapolis Colts on Sept. 29, when Burfict was kicked out following a hit on tight end Jack Doyle, he avoided reporters in the locker room by putting on his headphones and blowing past them. Nearly two months later, Burfict had a lot to get off his chest.
“It was bulls—,” Burfict said of the discipline for his hit on Doyle. “I was making a football play. I could see if it was a fine or something, but not a suspension, let alone for the whole season. It kind of seems like there was a target on my head. I mean, there has always been a target on my head.
“There have been times in games when a ref is cussing at me and wanting me to cuss back at him so he can throw me out of the game. Come on, bro. I don’t want to be out there playing against the refs and the opposing team.”
Earlier this season, Raiders defensive coordinator Paul Guenther, a close friend of Burfict’s from their time together in Cincinnati, said the Raiders probably would not have signed Burfict had they known he was one penalty away from a season-long suspension.
Burfict told The Athletic he was not informed that he was on his final strike.
“They didn’t, and it really doesn’t matter,” he said. “I see other players make that same kind of play on a daily basis. It was a witch hunt. They were watching everything I do. They watched 171 of my plays this year. Tell me if they watched 171 plays of that linebacker from the Chargers, what’s his name, Thomas Davis? Go witch hunt him.”
Burfict, who was on a one-year contract with Oakland, said he wants to play next season. His comments about Goodell and his unsuccessful appeal of his suspension, though, might be problematic.
“I met Roger Goodell in New York and he was a total b—-,” Burfict said. “He was a b—-. He didn’t let anybody speak, he rushed us in and out of the meeting. The meeting was bulls—. He already had the suspension in his hand.”
Burfict said he showed video of clean plays that he had made, plus dirty plays against him that weren’t called and that he didn’t retaliate to.
“They didn’t give a f— about that s—,” Burfict said.
Also, Raiders coach Jon Gruden and quarterback Derek Carr spoke on Burfict’s behalf during a conference call.
“That meant a lot to me, but the NFL didn’t give a f— about that s— either,” he said. “Derek Carr, my guy, said his piece about how I was a captain and a great teammate and not a dirty player, and [appeals officer] Derrick Brooks almost cut him off. He said we appreciate you coming on the call, but they didn’t need Derek Carr to vouch for me.
“Brooks made his mind up already. They let me know before I woke up the next day. They didn’t even go in the office, make some coffee and discuss it for a few minutes.”