I have never heard Panther tight end Greg Olsen so inflamed, and rightly so, after Cincinnati linebacker Vontaze Burfict twisted both Olsen's and Cam Newton's ankles in the end zone on Carolina scoring plays in Sunday's 37-37 tie with Cincinnati. (UPDATE: Burfict has reportedly been fined $25,000 by the league for the two ankle twists but he won't be suspended).
Olsen's quotes in this story by The Observer's Joseph Person bear a close look, because Olsen is a classy guy and a Panther captain and he measures what he says carefully. For him to call out Burfict like that -- and to call for a suspension, not just a fine -- speaks volumes about what the TV replays showed. And after watching the replays, I agree completely with him. I think Burfict should be suspended. What Burfict did has no place in football. He looked like he was using his hands for a screwdriver and Newton's and Olsen's ankles for the screw.
Burfict was flagged for two 15-yard penalties Sunday, but neither time that he "cranked," to use Olsen's word, the ankle of Newton and Olsen, was he penalized. Newton did briefly kick at Burfict to try and get him off the ankle -- the Panther quarterback was not available for comment Monday.
In instances like that that are so clearly premeditated, that he had in his mind that if he had those opportunities that he was going to try to attack guys’ legs, but guys who are coming off ankle problems specifically, there’s no room for it,” Olsen said Monday.
“And I think the punishment needs to go beyond a fine. Guys like that don’t learn from that stuff. He’s been fined 100 times for head-hunting and he did it to (receiver) Kelvin (Benjamin) again. You watch the film, it’s just what he is.”
One hundred times is an exaggeration, but Olsen was obviously fired up. Burfict twice last season was fined $21,000 by the NFL for hits on receivers – one of whom was current Panthers practice squad wideout Stephen Hill, when Hill was with the N.Y. Jets. Burfict was also assessed a $10,000 fine for striking Green Bay tight end Ryan Taylor in the groin. The Cincinnati Enquirer also notes that Burfict had eight unnecessary roughness penalties in 2013 and is tied for the team lead in penalties this year despite having concussion problems. Burfict led the NFL in unnecessary-roughness penalties in 2013. In his college career, the Enquirer notes, Burfict had 22 personal fouls in 37 games.
We are talking about a dirty football player here. Certainly Bengals coach Marvin Lewis struck the wrong tone when asked about Burfict's ankle twists Monday, laughing it off by saying: "Ankle wrenching? Sounds like the WWF."
Olsen said if the league is serious about player safety, it needs to crack down on players who are intentionally trying to hurt opponents. But will it? That's an open question. I believe a two-game, unpaid suspension would send the right message to Burfict -- one game for each ankle crank.
“At some point, if the NFL wants to really say they care about guys’ safety, they’ve got to start putting guys out for weeks because me and Cam were lucky we weren’t out for weeks, or Kelvin’s out for weeks,” Olsen said. “If you’re going to start putting guys on other teams’ out, then the ramifications need to equal that.”
Or, as Panther kicker Graham Gano put it on Sunday night on Twitter:
Unbelievable that a player would intentionally try to hurt my teammates twice. I hope the NFL lays down the law hard. #Unacceptable— Graham Gano (@GrahamGano) October 13, 2014
Seriously that makes me sick. There is no room in this league 4 something like that. We are grown men, have respect for the game and others.— Graham Gano (@GrahamGano) October 13, 2014