Scott Fowler

Panthers’ Greg Olsen knew Cincinnati’s Vontaze Burfict was dirty in 2014. And now...

Panthers coach: Cam Newton 'did what he was supposed to do' against Jags

Carolina Panthers coach Ron Rivera addresses Cam Newton's return to action and his team's performance Thursday against the host Jacksonville Jaguars.
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Carolina Panthers coach Ron Rivera addresses Cam Newton's return to action and his team's performance Thursday against the host Jacksonville Jaguars.

Greg Olsen had Vontaze Burfict correctly pegged as a dirty player three years ago.

The Carolina Panthers tight end told us exactly what Cincinnati linebacker Vontaze Burfict was way back in 2014, and now the NFL finally seems to be listening.

Burfict will be suspended for the first five games of the NFL season for his latest on-field infraction in a preseason game when he hit a defenseless receiver high, according to ESPN.

Burfict will appeal (of course) and the Bengals (of course) are in his corner. There is some question as to whether the hit was legal or not, but there is no question of Burfict’s status as a chronic offender of the NFL’s safety rules.

Cincinnati made a deal with the on-field devil that is Burfict a long time ago because he’s a good player when he’s not being a dirty one.

This is a shortcut no NFL team should take, but one that certainly gets taken a lot. The Panthers have employed their fair share of bad guys, too, with defensive end Greg Hardy being only the most recent example. Carolina eventually cut ties with Hardy, though. Cincinnati should have already done so with Burfict, but won’t.

None of the latest drama about Burfict should surprise the Panthers or their fans. Remember the Cincinnati-Carolina game in 2014, the one that ended in a 37-37 tie? I have never seen Olsen, the Panthers’ Pro Bowl tight end, as angry as he was after that one. Olsen accused Burfict of illegally twisting both his and quarterback Cam Newton’s ankles in the end zone after both players had scored, and video and photo evidence clearly supported his claim.

“In instances like that that are so clearly premeditated, that he had in his mind that if he had those opportunities that he was going to try to attack guys’ legs, but guys who are coming off ankle problems specifically – there’s no room for it,” Olsen told reporters the day after the game about Burfict. “And I think the punishment needs to go beyond a fine. Guys like that don’t learn from that stuff. He’s been fined 100 times for head-hunting, and he did it to (receiver) Kelvin (Benjamin) again (on another play in the game). You watch the film; it’s just what he is.”

burfict-fowler
On this play in 2014, Carolina’s Kelvin Benjamin (13) cradled the ball as he was being tackled and braced for a high hit from Vontaze Burfict (55, on left). Benjamin suffered a concussion on the play. Burfict, a repeat offender of NFL safety rules, is going to be suspended for the first five games of the 2017 NFL season. He plans to appeal. David T. Foster, III dtfoster@charlotteobserver.com

Yes, it is exactly what he is. Benjamin, incidentally, suffered what was labeled a “mild concussion” on the high hit from Burfict and missed some practice time because of it, but he did play the next Sunday.

Burfict’s most-publicized illegal hit came against Pittsburgh’s Antonio Brown during the 2015 playoffs, but in his five-year NFL career he has been fined almost $800,000 and flagged 16 times for either unnecessary roughness, personal fouls or roughing the passer. He will lose nearly $900,000 in lost salary game checks if this latest suspension stands, according to ESPN.

As for the 2014 ankle-twisting on Olsen and Newton – Newton tried to kick Burfict off of him in the end zone, but as usual didn’t get the benefit of an officials’ call –Burfict ultimately got fined $25,000 by the NFL but wasn’t suspended. He should have been. The NFL is just trying to make up for lost time at this point for their most notorious repeat offender. Olsen’s comments from 2014 seem prescient now.

“At some point, if the NFL wants to really say they care about guys’ safety, they’ve got to start putting guys out for weeks,” Olsen said the day after the Burfict ankle twists, alluding to a suspension that never came in 2014. “Me and Cam are lucky we aren’t out for weeks, or Kelvin isn’t out for weeks. If you’re going to start putting guys on other teams out, then the ramifications need to equal that.”

Exactly.

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