BUR­FICT WINS AP­PEAL; BAN RE­DUCED TO THREE GAMES

USA TODAY US Edition - - SPORTS - — Jim Owczarski, The Cincin­nati En­quirer

Von­taze Bur­fict, Marvin Lew

is and the Cincin­nati Ben­gals were vin­di­cated. Sort of. James

Thrash, the NFL and NFL Play­ers As­so­ci­a­tion’s ap­peals of­fi­cer for on-field dis­ci­pline, ruled to re­duce Bur­fict’s five-game sus­pen­sion to three games Wed­nes­day, the league an­nounced. In the let­ter no­ti­fy­ing Bur­fict of his sus­pen­sion, NFL vice pres­i­dent of foot­ball op­er­a­tions Jon 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.” The Ben­gals line­backer was ini­tially dis­ci­plined for break­ing two rules for a hit on Kansas City Chiefs full­back An­thony Sher

man on Aug. 19 — hit­ting a player in a de­fense­less pos­ture and un­nec­es­sary rough­ness. The de­fense­less pos­ture rule specif­i­cally pro­tects the head and neck area, and Bur­fict and the Ben­gals staunchly main­tained that the line­backer hit Sher­man in the chest, though Sher­man’s head did snap back upon con­tact. Af­ter hear­ing Bur­fict’s ap­peal via con­fer­ence call Tuesday, Thrash ruled that the five-game penalty was too se­vere. He won’t be able to play now un­til Oct. 1 at the Cleve­land Browns. It is the third con­sec­u­tive sea­son in which the Ben­gals will be with­out the 2013 Pro Bowler to start the year.

KA­REEM ELGAZZAR, USA TO­DAY NET­WORK

Ben­gals line­backer Von­taze Bur­fict will be el­i­gi­ble to re­turn Oct. 1.

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