In his first comments since he was ejected Sunday for making contact with an official, Burfict confirmed a report earlier this week by ESPN’s Adam Schefter that refs are trying to get him to react.
“The refs, they come up to me, talking to me disrespectfully, wanting me to curse back at them, but me cursing back at them isn’t going to help me,” Burfict said Friday. “I’m not going to get a flag in my favor next time around, but that’s the way they handle business, I guess. I told Coach I’m just going to try to stay out of the refs’ way.”
Late in the first half of Sunday’s loss to Tennessee, Burfict made contact with down judge Jeff Bergman after the official put his arm up to stop a back-and-forth with a Titans offensive lineman. Burfict said he was just trying to lift the official’s arm off him.
“I knew I didn’t do anything bad,” Burfict said. “Obviously, you are not supposed to touch the officials, but I didn’t think I touched him maliciously at all. I pretty much said, ‘Excuse me.'”
In Sunday’s case, it was the arm in front of him that caused Burfict’s reaction, but he said it is not uncommon for officials to curse at him in games, adding that Bergman cursed at him as he made the ejection call.
Burfict originally didn’t want to comment on whether he has been provoked because he doesn’t “want to get on the refs’ bad side.” However, Burfict said he feels like he already is targeted unfairly.
“I don’t have crazy flags this year,” he said. “… The refs aren’t calling flags on me. It’s more waiting for me to do something, and they see what happened first but they are waiting for me to react rather than throwing something when they see a guy push me or do something that’s not within the rules.”
Following Monday’s comments from a teammate that Burfict is being targeted by referees, an NFL spokesman denied those charges, saying it is not unusual for officials to come into contact with players and that there has been nothing unusual involving officials’ interactions with Burfict.
Burfict was not suspended for Sunday’s incident but faces a possible fine. He already had been suspended for the first three games of this season and has been fined or suspended by the league 11 times, resulting in losses of more than $2.5 million over six seasons.
Bengals defensive coordinator Paul Guenther said he has repeatedly told Burfict that he will be “held to a different set of standards” because of his history and expressed frustration from losing one of his best players.
Burfict is adamant that, if officials are watching him more closely than others, more calls should be made against his opponents.
“If they are watching out for me, they should always see what the person does first,” Burfict said. “Like in the Tennessee game, one of the O-linemen had me in between their legs like squeezing me. If they are obviously watching me like they say they are, they should see what the O-lineman or somebody else does to me to get me to react.”
Burfict expressed disappointment that he wasn’t able to help his team more Sunday. After his ejection, DeMarco Murray scored on a rushing touchdown to put the Titans ahead 14-6 with 5:12 left in the second quarter.
The 6-foot-1, 255-pound linebacker said he will continue to try not to react but admitted it’s in his nature to defend himself.
“I still think they shouldn’t be allowed to touch us if we can’t even touch them, not even in a physical way,” Burfict said. “The thing about it is the game of football is physical, and in the heat of the moment, when a guy is talking s— to you and you are getting pushed after the play and the ref comes up and puts his arm on you like you are the one that started something or pushed somebody first, every time that happens it kind of gets old. You know you’re not the one that started it and the ref comes up to you, it gets old.
“In the heat of the moment, when someone is touching you, you’re going to obviously get their hands off you as well. That’s how I was raised. I was raised to defend myself always.”