Following the bizarre turn of events that cost the Bengals their Wild Card Playoff game against the Steelers, linebacker Vontaze Burfict finally had his say in an interview with ESPN’s Josina Anderson.
Burfict said in the interview that he needs to change his style of play, but he probably would not have been flagged for his hit to the head of Steelers wide out Antonio Brown in the closing minute if his reputation hadn’t preceded him.
“Like I told coach [Marvin Lewis], I wish I could take that play back because I probably would’ve hit him low,” Burfict said in his first public comments about the incident.
“I don’t like hitting low, but I have to change because it’s getting flags because I hit him high or hit him in the helmet, and it’s so hard to determine where to hit the offender because they’re gonna tuck their body, and you have to pretty much tuck with them.”
The Bengals linebacker was suspended and will have to sit for the first three games of 2016, for what the NFL said was “repeated violations of player-safety rules.”
The NFL cited the hit on Brown as the final straw leading to the suspension. Burfict hit Brown after Brown couldn’t catch a pass that was overthrown from Steelers QB Ben Roethlisberger with 22 seconds left.
The hit resulted in a 15-yard penalty for unnecessary roughness, and after corner Adam Jones got another penalty for touching an official, the Steelers were able to convert an easy field goal for the win to move on in the postseason.
Burfict told Anderson that he takes responsibility for the hit. “I tried to pull up at the last second, but it was obviously too late — it’s a bang-bang play,” Burfict said.
“I play hard. Sometimes it gets me in trouble,” he said. “My style of play is aggressive, and [the game has] changed, and I have to change with it, and that play right there, I think if I wasn’t number 55, I wouldn’t have got flagged.”