Burfict, a repeat offender, hit the running back in a defenseless posture, sources said. It is a new rule the NFL is implementing this season to protect the player who can't protect himself, and it will hurt Burfict and the Bengals.
Burfict is appealing. He has a hearing next week with the NFL, sources said.
"I'm crossing my fingers and hoping for the best," Burfict told Bengals.com. "I feel like I've let down my teammates, but I also feel like I've done a good job with this. I only had one personal foul last year. We feel like this was a legal hit. I hit him in the shoulder. I hit hard, so it may have looked like I hit him in the head, but it was the shoulder. I helped him up and he said he was good and I asked if he was good on the next series and he said, 'Yeah, that was a legal hit.'"
The team, in a statement, said it is "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 contact was shoulder-to-chest. The Club will support Vontaze in the appeal process."
His suspension, if it stands, will cost Burfict $882,353 in lost base-salary game checks. Burfict is entering the last year of his contract and is scheduled to become a free agent after this season.
Burfict was suspended the first three games of the 2016 season for numerous violations of player safety rules, including an illegal hit on Steelers wide receiver? Antonio Brown?during the 2015 playoffs.
During his five-year NFL career, Burfict has been fined almost $800,000 and flagged 16 times for unnecessary roughness, personal fouls or roughing the passer. The lost wages of his latest suspension would more than double that total.
After Burfict's latest questionable preseason hit, the league office is taking action against him again.
If the suspension holds, Burfict would miss games against the Baltimore Ravens, Houston Texans, Green Bay Packers, Cleveland Browns and Buffalo Bills.