Bengals’ Burfict avoids suspension for contact with official

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CINCINNATI (AP) — Bengals linebacker Vontaze Burfict won't be suspended for the contact with an official that got him ejected from a 24-20 loss at Tennessee.

A league spokesman said Monday that Burfict faces a fine only. He pushed an official's arm out of the way on the sideline in the second quarter after quarterback Marcus Mariota ran out of bounds. Two plays earlier, Burfict drew an unnecessary roughness penalty for hitting Mariota out of bounds.

"I've been saying it: He's going to be held to a different set of standards because of his past," defensive coordinator Paul Guenther said Monday. "So he's got to understand that. He does us no good when he's sitting in the locker room for half a ballgame."

It was the second game in a row that the Bengals (3-6) had a star player ejected before halftime. Receiver A.J. Green was kicked out of a loss at Jacksonville after grabbing cornerback Jalen Ramsey around the neck, tackling him and punching him.

The outburst by Green was out of character. He apologized after the game. Green was fined $42,541 by the NFL but wasn't suspended. Ramsey also was ejected from the game but wasn't suspended or fined.

Coach Marvin Lewis has warned Burfict about exchanging words with opponents after a play.

"I've explained this to Vontaze," Lewis said Monday. "He understands that. (Officials) have a job to do and they're going to separate players. ... So get back to the huddle and get going, and that's the most important thing. We don't need to jaw with anyone after the play, any of the players."

An ESPN report quoted an unidentified Bengals player saying officials have provoked Burfict. Lewis said "it would shock me" if that were true.

Burfict's latest problems add to his history of fines and suspensions.

His biggest meltdown came in the final minute of a playoff game against the Steelers in the 2015 season. His hit to Antonio Brown's head drew a 15-yard penalty that moved Pittsburgh into range for a field goal and an 18-16 victory.

The NFL suspended Burfict for the first three games of the 2016 season in response to his hit on Brown and his history of egregious conduct. He got another three-game suspension to start this season after his egregious hit on Kansas City running back Anthony Sherman during a preseason game.

The Steelers have won their past five games against the Bengals, including a 29-14 victory in Pittsburgh this season. The Steelers (7-2) play a Monday night game at Paul Brown Stadium on Dec. 4.

Since the Bengals' playoff meltdown, Burfict and running back Le'Veon Bell have exchanged taunts on Twitter. After JuJu Smith-Schuster scored a touchdown Sunday during a 20-17 victory at Indianapolis, he and Bell re-enacted Green's takedown of Ramsey as their end zone celebration.

The Bengals play at Denver (3-6) on Sunday, completing a stretch of three straight road games. The Broncos are coming off a 41-16 home loss to New England on Sunday night, their fifth straight defeat. Brock Osweiler is expected to start against a Bengals defense that has self-destructed lately.

Cincinnati hasn't been able to move the ball on offense or get off the field on defense, resulting in a huge imbalance. In the past two games, the Bengals have run 75 fewer plays than their opponents. The Jaguars and Titans each held the ball for more than 40 minutes.

The defense allowed opponents to convert 19 of 33 third down plays in the past two games. In the second half alone Sunday, Bengals penalties allowed the Titans to convert a third-and-10, a third-and-8, another third-and-10 and a third-and-5.

HILL OPTS FOR SURGERY

The Bengals put running back Jeremy Hill on injured reserve Saturday because of an ankle injury, ending his season. Hill got hurt in practice the day before the loss in Jacksonville. Lewis was surprised that Hill decided to have surgery, which prompted the move.

"Jeremy thinks he needs to have ankle surgery," Lewis said. "I think he consulted a couple of physicians, both said this is something that could wait until after the season, and he just felt it was causing too much discomfort."

Hill's injury leaves rookie Joe Mixon and Giovani Bernard in the backfield. The Bengals are expected to add another running back this week. They have the worst-ranked running game in the NFL.

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