If Vontaze Burfict was guilty of anything when he knocked down Chiefs’ fullback Anthony Sherman last week on a crossing route it was having a bad reputation. Or maybe he was just guilty of playing football.
What he was not guilty of was violating newly re-written Rule 12, Sect. 2 article 7 (a) (2). To say otherwise is creating a crime where none was committed.
The new rule is designed to protect defenseless backs and receivers from hits “from the side or behind.’’ Fine. Problem here is Burfict ran down the hash mark in a straight line and hit the man IN THE CHEST. Unless Sherman’s chest is anatomically different than everyone else’s he didn’t get hit from the side or behind.
Second, the defender is prohibited from hitting a defenseless receiver in the head or neck area or with the crown of the helmet. Unless Burfict was wearing his helmet on his shoulder, which he was not, or Sherman’s chest is now classified as his neck – which wasn’t even true of Walt “No Neck’’ Williams – the suggestion of a violation there is a falsehood, as still photographs and slow-motion replay both reveal.
Defenders also can’t hit a receiver beyond five yards of the line of scrimmage. Unless 4 comes before 5, Burfict didn’t because he hit Sherman four yards from the line of scrimmage.
Lastly, the defender cannot “launch’’ himself into the receiver. Burfict’s right foot is firmly planted in the ground as he hits Sherman. Even the North Koreans figured out you can’t have a launch if the missile stays on the launching pad.
Walt Coleman’s refereeing crew did not call a penalty because none was committed. Yet someone went, “Whoa ... ,’’ because a receiver actually got hit, and the league’s response was initially a five-game suspension which was reduced to three on appeal.
That was not mercy. That was baloney.
Burfict’s appeal was heard by a former wide receiver, James Thrash. Burfict rightly wondered where his sympathies would lie, but the truth is it would not have mattered who heard the appeal because nobody was listening. A guy with priors was back, and so he was guilty even if proven innocent.
But what was Burfict guilty of to face potentially losing 1/3 of his season?
First, he has a well-earned bad reputation after being fined $291,000 for flagrantly ignoring rules in the past and losing over $800,000 in paychecks. We all know priors count under the rule of suspicion, but don’t you have to commit a crime before they hang you?
Second, the league wants a game that is politically correct in today’s concussion-obsessed world when the truth is football is a street fight with pads. There’s more to it than that, of course, but that’s the fundamental tension, and it worsens when the players are artificially enhanced into sizes grossly out of the norm as nearly every pro now is.
Mass x Speed = Ouch. I think Einstein said that. Or maybe it was Lombardi. Either way, as the players swell in size while becoming faster and faster the collisions inevitably do more spectacular damage.
Certainly Vonteze Burfict deserves watching. He’s out of second chances through his own past actions. But he didn’t do a damn thing but run in a straight line and hit a potential receiver within the kill zone with a shoulder to the chest. You shouldn’t face suspension for that when the truth is the only rule against it is the unwritten one: “Thou shalt not prevent pass completions in today’s NFL -- lest aptly-named fantasy fans start watching golf.’’