NFL upholds season-long suspension for Raiders' Vontaze Burfict

Jerry McDonald, East Bay Times on

Published in Football

ALAMEDA, Calif. -- The NFL upheld a season-long suspension of middle linebacker Vontaze Burfict Wednesday despite efforts by the Raiders to have it reduced at an appeals hearing.

The hearing, according to ESPN's Josina Anderson on Twitter, was "an hour and change" on Tuesday and included coach Jon Gruden and quarterback Derek Carr speaking on Burfict's behalf.

The appeals officer was Hall of Fame linebacker Derrick Brooks, who played under Gruden for the Tampa Bay Buccaneers from 2002 through 2008 and was a member of his Super Bowl championship team.

According to Anderson's unnamed source, the Raiders emphasized Burfict had gone 190 plays without being flagged before the suspension, pointed out other hits that weren't penalized, highlighted his role as a leader and team captain and made the case that Indianapolis tight end Jack Doyle had changed his "target zone" just before the foul.

The source also told Anderson the Raiders said Burfict played the role of peacemaker during an altercation between general manager Mike Mayock and wide receiver Antonio Brown.

Gruden said Tuesday the club had reached out to the NFL and made their case that the penalty was too severe and seemed optimistic the linebacker would be reinstated.


"They have a tough job. At the same time we have a lot of confidence that they'll do what's right," Gruden said. "We want Burfict back. He's already been punished. We hope he can return to playing soon."

With Burfict unable to play against the Chicago Bears, the Raiders played with two true linebackers -- Tahir Whitehead and Nicholas Morrow -- for the entire game. Safeties Erik Harris and Karl Joseph each played every snap, with Joseph playing some snaps closer to the line of scrimmage.

"Nick and Whitehead, they didn't come off the field the other night," Gruden said. "They played every single play. Morrow had an interception. I think Whitehead did a great job of running the show. Those guys deserve credit."

Burfict, 29, was suspended Sept. 30 for the remainder of the season for a helmet-to-helmet hit that drew a 15-yard penalty and an ejection from the Raiders' 31-24 win over the Indianapolis Colts.


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