The league suspended Bengals linebacker Vontaze Burfict without pay for the first three games of the 2016 season for “repeated violations of safety-related playing rules.”
The news comes after his hit on Steelers receiver Antonio Brown in the wild-card playoff game. Burfict was flagged for unnecessary roughness by making forcible contact to the head and neck area of a defenseless receiver, and Brown ended up with a concussion on the play.
Per the NFL, Burfict has previously been fined four times during the 2015 season for safety-related violations.
One $50,000 fine stemmed from the Week 17 season finale against the Baltimore Ravens. Burfict appeared to use the crown of his helmet to hit the head and neck area of rookie tight end Maxx Williams, who was out of the play.
There was no penalty flag at the time.
“The suspension was imposed by NFL Vice President of Football Operations Merton Hanks, who ruled that Burfict’s action placed his opponent at unnecessary risk of injury and should have been avoided,” the NFL said in a statement.
Burfict has the option under the Collective Bargaining Agreement to appeal his suspension.