Vontaze Burfict says illegal hit he's being suspended for was clean

Linebacker Vontaze Burfict is facing a five-game suspension, but the Cincinnati Bengals have his back.

The team put out a statement on Sunday night that it did not feel the hit in question on Kansas City Chiefs fullback Anthony Sherman was dirty. Then the team’s website had a quote from Burfict saying that not only did he feel the hit was clean, Sherman told him during the game it was clean.

“I’m crossing my fingers and hoping for the best,” Burfict told Geoff Hobson of the team’s site, referring to his appeal of the five-game suspension. “I feel like I’ve let down my teammates, but I also feel like I’ve done a good job with this. I only had one personal foul last year. We feel like this was a legal hit. I hit him in the shoulder. 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 5 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,” Burfict said.

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The NFL’s issue is likely that Sherman was a defenseless receiver. Chiefs quarterback Alex Smith threw the ball downfield, and at the same time Burfict decked Sherman near the line of scrimmage even though he wasn’t part of the play.

Vontaze Burfict faces a five-game suspension for an illegal hit. (AP)

“The Bengals are aware of the NFL’s letter to Vontaze regarding a play in last weekend’s game,” the Bengals said in a statement, via the team’s site. “The film shows that the hit was legal, that Vontaze engaged his opponent from the front, and that contact was shoulder-to-chest. The Club will support Vontaze in the appeal process.”

Also, Burfict doesn’t get the benefit of the doubt. His history of borderline or simply dirty hits is well documented. Last season he missed the first three games due to a suspension for a helmet-to-helmet hit on Pittsburgh Steelers receiver Antonio Brown. That was the penalty that set up a Steelers game-winning field goal in a Bengals playoff collapse. Brown missed the Steelers’ next playoff game, a loss to the Denver Broncos, with a concussion.

We’ll see if the NFL reaches out to Sherman to gauge what he felt about Burfict’s hit, and whether the NFL will consider that in Burfict’s appeal.

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Frank Schwab is the editor of Shutdown Corner on Yahoo Sports. Have a tip? Email him at shutdown.corner@yahoo.com or follow him on Twitter!