If you thought Vontaze Burfict wouldn’t be able to stoke the Steelers-Bengals rivalry again until the two teams meet Dec. 4 in Cincinnati, think again.
You may remember that the linebacker kicked fullback Roosevelt Nix in the Steelers’ 29-14 win against the Bengals Oct. 22 at Heinz Field. Afterward, running back Le’Veon Bell was critical of the cheap shot, tweeting:
Burfict responded to that criticism in kind in an interview with Sports Illustrated’s MMQB, saying:
“I don’t worry about it,” Burfict says. “People that are still talking after the game, and they won. Congratulations to them. Obviously, you must be scared of me. I think Le’Veon said something on Twitter still talking about the game. I don’t really pay attention to it. My brother had actually called cheap nfl jerseys me and told me, ‘Did you hear what Le’Veon said? And I’m like, ‘Nah, what’d he’d say?’ ‘He was saying something about you need to get out of the NFL. Or something like that.’ I said, ‘Man, I’m not worried about that.’ He’s just saying that, obviously, because he got hurt on two incidences of dealing with me. Both tackles were clean. One time he tried to still go for yards and the safety hit him and knees got tangled up. That’s football. He’s a great player, but I don’t listen to what other players say about me around the league. It doesn’t bother me. Because I know who I am.”
Hmm. A lot to unpack there.
First, yes, Bell and Burfict have history. Burfict was in on the hit that dealt Bell a season-ending knee injury in 2015. And no, that specific hit wasn’t especially dirty. It was a football play that had a bad result for Bell.
That being said, kicking another player after a play is about as dirty as it gets. And that’s not just a provincial opinion. The NFL fined Burfict a little more than $12,000 for the stunt Bell was referencing with his tweet.
Beyond that, Burfict’s dirty hits have twice resulted in suspensions, one of those coming after he concussed Steelers receiver Antonio Brown with a headshot at the end of a playoff game two years ago. And this summer, he even put a low hit on a teammate that drew the ire of people in his own locker room.
So if Bell is “scared” of Burfict, it’s not because his football skills are any more fearsome than those of any other linebacker in the NFL. It’s because you never know when he might go into “Mortal Kombat” mode and try to hurt someone in a dirty and irreversible way.
And if Burfict doesn’t want to hear that criticism? Well, he’s missing the point of what Bell — and many others around the league — are saying about his actions.