Cincinnati — Linebacker Vontaze Burfict missed the first three games last season because of his hit to Antonio Brown’s head in the playoffs. He’ll miss the first five this season thanks to another rattling hit, this time during a preseason game.
The NFL has suspended the Bengals’ defensive leader for leveling a Chiefs running back in violation of its player safety rules, the latest in Burfict’s history of egregious hits that have drawn fines and suspensions.
Burfict hit running back Anthony Sherman in the chest this month during a pass play in which he was not the intended receiver, knocking him to the ground.
Burfict was suspended for his hit to Brown’s head on an incomplete pass during a first-round playoff game in the 2015 season. The resulting personal foul moved the Steelers into field goal range in the closing seconds for an 18-16 victory at Paul Brown Stadium.
The Bengals released a statement defending Burfict in the face of his latest punishment.
“The film shows that the hit was legal, that Vontaze engaged his opponent from the front, and that contact was shoulder-to-chest,” the statement said.
A player doesn’t have to draw a penalty to be fined or suspended by the league, which has cracked down on dangerous hits as part of its effort to protect defenseless players. NFL spokesman Brian McCarthy pointed out in an email to The Associated Press that the league’s rulebook bans “unnecessary contact” against players who aren’t in position to defend themselves.
Sherman was slow to get up but stayed in the game.
The Bengals will open the season with Burfict and cornerback Adam “Pacman” Jones suspended. The league suspended Jones one game for his latest arrest and misdemeanor conviction in the offseason.
The Ravens have given coach John Harbaugh a contract extension, even though the team has missed the playoffs in three of the past four years.
Harbaugh started this season with a contract that stretched through 2018. The Ravens did not disclose the length of the new deal.
In nine years with the Ravens, Harbaugh is 85-59 during the regular season and 10-5 in the playoffs.
... Thursday’s scheduled preseason game between the Texans and the Cowboys will move to AT&T Stadium in Arlington, Texas, from NRG Stadium, according to the Fort Worth Star-Telegram, because of the historic flooding in Houston associated with Hurricane Harvey, per the City of Arlington’s website early Monday evening.
A city spokesman later said that the decision is not final.
Rich Dalrymple, senior vice president of communications for the Cowboys, said no decision has been made. The Texans also have yet to confirm.
Broncos backup quarterback Paxton Lynch reportedly will miss several weeks because of a sprained right shoulder.
... The Bills traded linebacker Reggie Ragland to the Chiefs for a fourth-round pick in the 2019 draft and signed quarterback Keith Wenning.
... An Ohio judge acquitted Bills defensive tackle Adolphus Washington of a weapons charge.
... Josh McCown will start at quarterback in the Jets’ regular-season opener at Buffalo.
... The Jets released defensive lineman Devon Still and signed cornerback Armagedon Draughn.
... Giants defensive end Owa Odighizuwa has been suspended without pay for the first four games of the regular season for violating the NFL’s policy on performance-enhancing substances.
... The Colts traded long snapper Thomas Hennessy to the Jets for safety Ronald Martin and released punter Jeff Locke.