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Bengals linebacker Burfict suspended for first 3 games of next season

| Monday, Jan. 11, 2016, 8:12 p.m.
Chaz Palla | Tribune-Review
Steelers receiver Antonio Brown is hit in the head by Bengals linebacker Vontaze Burfict during the fourth quarter of an AFC wild-card game Saturday, Jan. 9, 2016, in Cincinnati.
Chaz Palla | Tribune-Review
Steelers outside linebacker coach Joey Porter (left) has words with Bengals linebacker Vontaze Burfict after Burfict hit a defenseless Antonio Brown in the fourth quarter of the AFC Wild Card playoff game Saturday, Jan. 9. 2016, in Cincinnati.

CINCINNATI — The NFL suspended Bengals linebacker Vontaze Burfict for the first three games of next season for repeated violations of the league's rules against dangerous hits on opposing players.

If the ban is upheld, it will cost Burfict $502,941 of his 2016 base salary, according to ESPN.

The league also is reviewing the conduct of other players and coaches during Steelers' 18-16 win Saturday that turned on penalties against Burfict and Bengals cornerback Adam Jones in the final minute.

Burfict was penalized for lowering his shoulder and hitting defenseless receiver Antonio Brown in the head after an incompletion with 22 seconds left and the Bengals holding a 16-15 lead. Brown suffered a concussion during the play.

Burfict already had been fined four times for dangerous plays during the season. He got a $50,000 fine for an illegal hit on a Ravens player a week earlier. He also was fined $69,454 for three penalties against the Steelers on Dec. 13: roughing the passer, grabbing the facemask and unnecessary roughness.

Merton Hanks, the league's vice president of football operations, said the hit on Brown during the playoff game “placed his opponent at unnecessary risk of injury and should have been avoided.”

Before the suspension was announced, Bengals coach Marvin Lewis said although Burfict has been penalized and fined repeatedly, the linebacker has been depicted unfairly.

“(The hit on Brown) didn't go over the edge,” Lewis said. “But unfortunately, he can't have that kind of blow with the guy that's receiving the pass. But it didn't go over the edge for the course of the season.

“Let's not take things out of context, and understand it. Let's judge the body of work.”

The NFL decided his penalties over the course of a season merited the suspension, which can be appealed.

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