It didn't have to be like this, of course. after not hearing his name called in the 2012 NFL Draft, Burfict climbed the ladder of success while playing for the Marvin Jones' Cincinnati Bengals. But while he was able to make it to the NFL, he gained a reputation that would last long after he hung up his cleats.
Time and time again, Burfict led with his helmet when tackling players. He's gone after defenseless receivers, stomped on Legarrette Blount after a scrum and administered a helmet-to-helmet hit on Indianapolis Colts tight end Jack Doyle so hard he was suspended for 12 games, the longest suspension for an on-field act ever. Simply put, there's no place in the NFL for a player like Burfict.
During the 2015 NFL playoffs, in a game between two AFC North rivals, Burfict laid a nasty hit on Steelers wide receiver Antonio Brown that not only made his body go limp but gave him a concussion and, in the minds of some, changed the former Pittsburgh Steelers wide receiver's life forever.
Vontaze Burfict's Hit On Antonio Brown
If it wasn't already obvious, that's Bengals linebacker Vontaze Burfict flying across the screen to knock Antonio Brown out of the playoff game. It was one of the dirtiest hits the game has ever seen, and it gave the seven-time Pro Bowl receiver a concussion. Burfict absurdly claimed Brown faked the concussion despite not playing the following week.
"He faked that... I feel like he looked at me," Burfict told ESPN The Magazine. "The ball tipped off his hands and he kind of put his head towards my area, and I tried to fade off of him at the last second, but he initially tried to make contact because he knew he could get the flag. And just the way he went down, it was just like -- I don't know man."
After that 15-yard penalty, Bengals' Pacman Jones drew another 15-yard penalty by pushing Steelers coach Joey Porter to set up the Steelers game-winner with 14 seconds remaining. The Steelers went on to win the game, 18-16, and Burfict was suspended for the first three games of the 2016 season.
The Hit Possibly Changed Brown's Life
Brown remained one of the game's best receivers afterward. He tallied more than 4,000 receiving yards and 36 touchdowns over the next three Pro Bowl seasons.
But one Pittsburgh radio host believes his demeanor changed after the concussion. Colin Dunlap, host of 93.7 The Fan, said Brown's outrageous and strange behavior that led to him not playing in the NFL began with the Burfict concussion hit.
"He started to be someone who was afraid everyone was out to get him, he never smiled after that all that much - he became somebody different. He used to be innocently narcissistic, much like a lot of receivers in the NFL, but he didn't have this dark side to him. And for me, every single incident, it all happened after the Burfict hit," Dunlap told told The Zach Gelb Show, according to Cinninati.com.
"If you can't see the trajectory that took a sharp spike right after the Burfict hit - and he has never recovered since then. That's just all fact, the timeline: the everybody's out to get me, the dark, never smiling. The guy used to smile all the time. ... When's the last time you've seen AB happy? ... I think that the launching point for me is that AFC Wild Card game. I think it's that, and I think his head is messed up from football."
This wouldn't be the end of the feud between Burfict and Brown, but the later chapter involves a few new faces. In a Week 6 matchup in 2018, Burfict targeted Brown again, this time with a forearm to the head. On the very next play, according to Pittsburgh''s signal-caller Ben Roethlisberger, Burfict pointed to Juju Smith-Schuster and said "You're next."
"He hits A.B., then, literally, as I am under center for the next play, he points at JuJu and says, 'You're next,'" Roethlisberger said to the media after the game. "How do you allow that stuff?" Whether or not this was said is still disputed today, but it's undeniable that Burfict had a problem with the Steelers wideouts.
Furthermore, whether Brown's head is "messed up from football" is anyone's guess. But Brown's unusual behavior from 2019 on is undeniable. Did this all start with Vontaze Burfict's disgusting hit?
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