Starkey: Bengals' Burfict positively delusional

The Bengals' Vontaze Burfict reacts against the Steelers on Jan. 9, 2016, in Cincinnati.
The Bengals' Vontaze Burfict reacts against the Steelers on Jan. 9, 2016, in Cincinnati.
Photo by Getty Images
Joe Starkey
| Wednesday, Feb. 24, 2016, 8:09 p.m.

“I think if I wasn't No. 55, I wouldn't have got flagged.”

Wait, so Vontaze Burfict was the victim of that dirty, selfish, knockout hit late in the Steelers-Bengals playoff game? Picked on by the NFL?

Here I thought Burfict was the perpetrator. I thought the victim was Antonio Brown, the guy whose eyes rolled to the back of his head before he hit the turf unconscious (and before he winked at Pacman Jones, of course).

Wow, is Burfict delusional. Speaking with ESPN's Josina Anderson in his first public comments since the assassination attempt, he expressed zero regret other than to say he should have hit Brown low. Because in that case, the NFL wouldn't have singled him out again.

No. 55 also claimed he “tried to pull up,” which is interesting in that every available piece of video shows him making what appeared to be a determined effort to drive his shoulder through Brown's skull. And that was after Bengals coach Marvin Lewis tried to calm Burfict, who was shouting, “They want a wrestling match! They want a wrestling match! We gonna give it to 'em!”

He gave it to 'em, all right. Merely at the expense of his team possibly winning a playoff game for the first time in a quarter century. No. 55 prioritized a kill shot over winning a game.

Has he apologized to his teammates?

Has he apologized to Brown? Even Jones Pacman-ed up and did that, albeit by Instagram.

Maybe more will come out when the full interview is released, but it sure sounds like Burfict still doesn't get it. He reminds me of Matt Cooke during the lowest points of his Penguins tenure — an athlete incapable of curbing his destructive tendencies. Both to himself and others.

Cooke needed professional help and time away from the game in order to get his act together. Burfict might need the same.

I doubt a three-game suspension will do the trick. Not from the sounds of it.

Even in admitting he has to change his game, Burfict sounded defiant. He says he'll hit guys low from now on. Maybe the way he went after the back of Ben Roethlisberger's legs Dec. 13 in Cincinnati?

Burfict's defiance is either good or bad news for the Steelers, depending on your viewpoint.

The good news is he is sure to sabotage his team again. He already has by way of the suspension.

The bad news is he is likely to inflict at least as much harm onto others as onto his guys. He took out the Steelers' three best players (Roethlisberger, Le'Veon Bell, Brown) last season. Two of those were legal hits, though Burfict also dug a knee into Roethlisberger's shoulder after the sack in the playoff game.

The Steelers, of course, have a player who can relate to at least part of Burfict's situation. The part regarding head shots. James Harrison several years ago needed to stop hitting people in the head. So he did. But Harrison was not known for dirty extracurriculars.

Correct me if I'm wrong, but I don't believe Harrison's history includes fines for twisting people's ankles, striking an opponent in the groin or viciously head-butting a player far away from the play, which is precisely what Burfict did to Baltimore tight end Maxx Williams in Week 17. It should have gotten him suspended for the playoff game.

Burfict piled up almost $70,000 in fines from the Dec. 13 game alone, on account of roughing the passer, facemask and unnecessary roughness penalties. He has accumulated more than $200,000 in fines and 16 personal fouls in his career.

In other words, the man has become a menace to his union brethren. At some point, if they haven't already, the NFL Players Association's key figures need to get off the sidelines (you know, like Domata Peko) on the Burfict issue. They have a rogue actor within their ranks, a man who has proven himself an ongoing threat to others' livelihoods. They should find Burfict and address the problem.

I'm sure they have his number.

Joe Starkey co-hosts a show 2 to 6 p.m. weekdays on 93.7 FM. Reach him at jraystarkey@gmail.com.

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