Cincinnati Bengals head coach Marvin Lewis says that linebacker Vontaze Burfict has changed the way he plays the game as a result of the suspension he received for an illegal hit on Kansas City Chiefs fullback Anthony Sherman this past month, according to Katherine Terrell of ESPN. Lewis said that Burfict missed a tackle against Tampa Bay Buccaneers wide receiver Mike Evans because he was afraid of getting a penalty.
“He said, ‘Coach, I just didn’t want to hit Mike Evans, I was afraid of getting a penalty,'” said Lewis. “And I just said, ‘Wrap up, use your arms, keep your head out of it.'”
Burfict has developed a reputation as one of the dirtiest players in the league. While he only had one personal foul last season, had eight in 2013 and three more in 2015. The 26-year-old was originally suspended for five games for his hit on Sherman, but the suspension was reduced to three contests. Many agree that the hit did not appear too severe and that Burfict’s track record certainly played a significant role in the harshness of his punishment.
Burfict played in 11 games last season, with three of the absences due to a three-game suspension he received for repeated violation of player safety rules in 2016. He finished with 101 total tackles, two sacks, two interceptions, one forced fumble and eight pass defenses.
The Bengals will play its final preseason game on Thursday against the Indianapolis Colts. The AFC North franchise will open up the regular season on Sunday, September 10 upon hosting the rival Baltimore Ravens.