Vontaze Burfict’s suspension reduced to three games

linebacker Vontaze Burfict’s initial five-game suspension for a hit he delivered during a preseason game against the Chiefs has been reduced to three games on appeal, the NFL announced Wednesday.

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Jon Runyan, NFL vice president of football operations, initially suspended Burfict five games. James Thrash, an NFL-NFL Players Association appeals officer who heard the appeal Tuesday , reduced the suspension to three.

Burfict was found by the league to have violated two rules when he hit Kansas City Chiefs fullback on a play with 7:58 remaining in the third quarter of a game on Aug. 19. The league stated he made unnecessary contact against a player in a defenseless posture (Rule 12, Section 2, Article 7 of NFL rulebook) and he hit a player who is out of a play (Rule 12, Section 2, Article 6).

In his letter notifying Burfict of his suspension, Runyan wrote:

“This is not your first offense with respect to illegal hits to defenseless players; to the contrary, this incident is consistent with your pattern of egregious safety-related violations including your hit on a defenseless player during the 2015 Wild Card game and your hit against a Baltimore tight end away from the play on January 3, 2016 … When players violate the rules intended to protect player safety on a repeated basis, and particularly when the violations carry with them a significant risk of injury to an opposing player … you must be held accountable for this continuing unacceptable conduct.”

Burfict will be suspended for the Bengals’ season opener against the and will miss contests against the Houston Texans and .

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On the same day the initial suspension was reported, Burfict defended the hit as legal.

“We feel like this was a legal hit. I hit him in the shoulder,” Burfict told the Bengals’ official website. “I hit hard, so it may have looked like I hit him in the head, but it was the shoulder. I helped him up and he said he was good and I asked if he was good on the next series and he said, ‘Yeah, that was a legal hit.’

“The rules say you can eliminate a receiver within five yards of the line of scrimmage as long as you don’t hit him in the head and I don’t think I hit him in the head.”

The Bengals also defended the hit as legal and supported Burfict in his appeal and Andy Dalton jersey.

With the Bengals already missing cornerback Adam Jones to a one-game suspension for violating the NFL’s personal conduct policy, this is a heavy blow to a Bengals defense that will have its hands full against tough competition to start the season. It also doesn’t help that former longtime defensive stalwart Rey Maualuga signed with the Miami Dolphins earlier this month. Cincinnati drafted a pair of linebackers — Carl Lawson in the fourth round and in the sixth — who could be in line for a bigger role over the coming months, but they can’t really replace Burfict and Vontaze Burfict jersey.

Mixon’s talent is off the charts, but the crowded backfield is worth questioning his current ADP at RB18. You’d have to draft him in the late-third, early fourth round so you’d likely be investing in him as your RB2. That’s probably fair considering the upside of the Bengals’ offense as a whole, combined with his ability to electrify the run game. Still, there are a couple of other rookie backs who should have a more immediate impact given their situations like Dalvin Cook and Kareem Hunt for about equal or less cost than Mixon in redrafts. The upside might be too tempting to pass up though.

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Nike Bengals #14 Andy Dalton Black Name & Number Pullover NFL Hoodie

Nike Bengals #14 Andy Dalton Black Name & Number Pullover NFL Hoodie

There’s been a steady hum out of Bengals camp that hasn’t changed course the entire offseason. The team has stuck with the narrative that will remain the early-down and goal line back in 2017. Even with a strong performance from Mixon in the preseason, we’ve seen nothing on the field to make us think otherwise. Hill has been the first running back on the field in all of the Bengals’ preseason games and is indeed getting goal-line looks with the first team offense. With Mixon on the depth chart, the Bengals now have the luxury of using Hill solely for what he’s good at — converting on short-yardage situations and punching in touchdowns from a few yards out. As Rotoworld’s Evan Silva pointed out earlier in the summer, the Bengals have ranked in the top 10 in both rushing attempts and red zone carries in each of the past three years.

This bodes well for Hill’s outlook, even if his volume regresses with more talent in the backfield. Hill has enjoyed an over 220-attempt workload in each of his first three seasons, but I’m not the first to tell you he’s been far from efficient with those looks, with a combined 3.7 yards per carry average in the last two years. It makes sense to limit Hill’s workload given the depth behind him, and use him to his strengths. Sure, you’ve been burned by Hill in fantasy the last two seasons given his early-round asking price and his RB13 and RB19 finishes in standard scoring. But now, with Mixon in the mix (pun not intended, but it sort of works?) Hill’s ADP has plummeted into the double-digit, and even teen rounds in some cases. He’s worth an add for his touchdown upside alone, even if it’s in a more limited role. Mixon may not get the keys to Cincy’s backfield immediately which is something to keep in mind given the rookie’s cost in redraft.

The former Washington star underwent shoulder surgery in March after breaking Chris Johnson’s official record in the NFL Scouting Combine’s 40-yard dash.

Ross was also prevented from attending a portion of Cincinnati’s offseason program due to the NFL’s rule requiring first-year players to finish out their school term before they can practice.

Although director of player personnel Duke Tobin compared Ross to former Colts great Marvin Harrison during the broadcast of the Bengals’ preseason opener, the No. 7 overall pick in the draft is racing against time to crack the starting lineup.

Second-year wideout has enjoyed a strong camp, joining perennial Pro Bowler A.J. Green jersey and veteran in three-receiver sets.

We fully expect Ross to make an impact this season. The question is how quickly he carves out a weekly role in Andy Dalton’s aerial attack.

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