In a vacuum, a five-game suspension may seem excessive for this hit.
But the offending player — Bengals linebacker Vontaze Burfict — has been disciplined many times in the past. He was suspended last year for three games because of “repeated violations of player safety rules.” And CBS Sports noted last October that Burfict had been fined $805,000 in 53 games.
It seems that Burfict will be losing more money.
The ESPN story noted that the NFL determined Sherman was in a defenseless position when he was hit by Burfict, and that’s why he is facing a suspension.
Schefter shared a statement from the Bengals about the suspension. The team wrote: “The Bengals are aware of the NFL’s letter to Vontaze regarding a play in last weekend’s game. The film shows that the hit was legal, that Vontaze engaged his opponent from the front, and that the contact was shoulder-to-chest. The Club will support Vontaze in the appeal process.”
Chiefs defensive coordinator Bob Sutton said he hasn’t see the hit, and wouldn’t comment directly on the play. But he said the Chiefs review rules about initiating unnecessary contact against a player in a defenseless posture.
“I think the rule is pretty clear,” Sutton said. “Basically you can’t hit a defenseless player. You’re going to be in jeopardy every time you hit above the shoulder pads. Some of things are bang-bang plays that happen in football.
“I think players have taken to the rule well. We certainly try to coach it and say, ‘This the legal thing you can do.’”
The Star’s Blair Kerkhoff contributed to this report