Vontaze Burfict suspended three games, will appeal

The Cincinnati Bengals will open next season without controversial linebacker Vontaze Burfict.

The NFL announced Monday that Burfict has been suspended without pay for the first three games of the 2016 regular season for repeated violations of safety-related playing rules.

The league deemed that Burfict should have avoided the hit that concussed Antonio Brown, ultimately giving the Steelers field position for the winning kick in their 18-16 wild-card playoff victory over the Bengals on Saturday.

The suspension was imposed by Merton Hanks, NFL vice president of football operations, who ruled that Burfict's action placed his opponent at unnecessary risk of injury and should have been avoided.

The NFL also stated that the conduct of other players and coaches involved in the Steelers-Bengals kerfuffle is being reviewed for potential discipline.

Agent Audie Attar confirmed that Burfict will appeal the suspension, per NFL Media Insider Ian Rapoport. He has up to three days to appeal.

A repeat offender, Burfict left the NFL with little recourse. He had previously been fined four times in 2015 alone for safety-related violations.

That includes close to $70,000 for three fines stemming from three different plays during the Bengals' 33-20 loss to the Steelers in mid-December.

His Week 8 tackle on Le'Veon Bell ended the star running back's season. If you're counting at home, Burfict was responsible for knocking Pittsburgh's three best players out of games this season.

The behavior is nothing new for Burfict. He led the league in unnecessary roughness penalties this season and was flagged for 22 "flagrant" penalties in 37 games at Arizona State, which contributed to his slide through the 2012 NFL Draft.

A noted head hunter, who was fined for a Week 17 cheap shot on Ravens tight end Maxx Williams, Burfict is infamous for dirty hits after the play.

He drove his knee into Roethlisberger's shoulder on the play that knocked the quarterback out of Saturday night's game.

The Pantherscalled for his suspension after a 2014 game in which the internecine linebacker was caught intentionally twisting the ankles of Cam Newton and Greg Olsen after the whistle.

Burfict plays like a throwback to the 1950s. The difference is high-definition instant replays and social media weren't around to capture and disseminate dirty tactics when roughnecks like Hardy Brown, Ed Sprinkle and the Black-Hat Brigade were shattering jaws and prematurely ending careers. Those hits won't fly in an era of heightened concern for player safety.

The Bengals have long needed a ferocious tone-setter willing to match the Steelers' physicality. Although Burfict does provide that presence, the modern NFL can't abide a repeat offender intent on injuring other players.

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