The Oakland Raiders apparently are the Island of Misunderstood Players.
First, it was former Raiders receiver Antonio Brown, whom coach Jon Gruden called “misunderstood.” Now it’s suspended-for-the-rest-of-the-season Raiders linebacker Vontaze Burfict, whom quarterback Derek Carr also has called “misunderstood.”
Specifically, Carr told reporters on Wednesday that Burfict “is one of the most misunderstood people in the NFL,” via Vic Tafur of TheAthletic.com. “He is a great guy. . . . I don’t think the suspension is fair. . . . His heart is broken.”
Carr is right as to the duration of the suspension. The league has never suspended a player more than five games, and Burfict’s suspension likely will be reduced on appeal. But Carr is wrong to call Burfict “misunderstood”; Burfict is and always has been a dirty player in an era where dirty play no longer flies.
“We see other people choking people out, and they’re going to play this Sunday,” Carr said via Paul Gutierrez of ESPN.com, apparently referring to Ravens cornerback Marlon Humphrey‘s looked-like-a-choke-but-wasn’t of Odell Beckham Jr. “We see other people hitting people in the helmet, and they’re going to play this Sunday. And Vontaze Burfict won’t play the rest of the year? I think that’s a little excessive, if you ask me. I don’t think it’s fair, if we really got to know the guy.”
But the NFL suspended Burfict not because of what he did Sunday but because of his history of unsafe, reckless, and/or deliberately illegal play. He has shown time and again that he can’t or won’t comply with the requirements of the rules. At some point, that inability to play within the rules is no different than an inability to run fast or throw a football accurately or block other humans effectively. There’s someone else out there who can play football at a high level and who can and will comply with the rules. That person should have the roster spot that otherwise would belong to Burfict.
Carr wasn’t wrong to defend a teammate. Still, he’s taking too narrow a view of Burfict’s behavior, looking only at the most recent infraction and not the many others he committed while in Cincinnati.