CINCINNATI - Bengals coach Marvin Lewis defended Vontaze Burfict's style of play in the wake of a pending five-game suspension. Lewis said that Burfict has changed his style of play after getting a three-game suspension last year for violations of player safety.
"In my opinion Vontaze has changed,' Lewis said. "He's learned, he's changed, but in my opinion he's a 250-pound man that hits like a dynamite. It's like getting hit by a cement truck. That's just the way he plays. He's got great hip explosion; that's why he's the player he is. ... The dynamics of his body are such that it's like getting hit by a 300-pound person."
Burfict has a conference call Tuesday to potentially appeal the suspension. The NFL appointed James Thrash as the appeals officer, a league source told ESPN's Adam Schefter. Lewis said the play in question, which occurred in the Bengals' preseason game against the Chiefs, was within the rules.
"Sometimes in interpretation things got lost, and hopefully Vontaze will prevail," Lewis said.
Burfict is on the NFL's repeat offender list, which is likely why he got an unprecedented five-game suspension after the Chiefs game. He has been fined numerous times by the league for plays it has considered questionable.
The play in question was a hit to Chiefs fullback Anthony Sherman, who was not the intended receiver on the play.
The league recently added a new rule emphasizing hits on defenseless receivers, but Lewis said this particular play was not one of the examples listed when the NFL explained the new rules to players in the preseason.
"It's within the rules," Burfict said. "You can hit the receiver in 5 yards; you just can't hit him in the helmet or neck area. I hit him in the chest area. I guess they just have it out for me, I guess. It's whatever."
Lewis said the league's issue with the hit was that it came from the side, where the receiver could not see him. Lewis said that wasn't possible
"The interpretation is that it's away from the play, does Vontaze hit him from the back, or from the side, or does he put his shoulder into the number of the Kansas City Chiefs player?" Lewis said. "Obviously I would have to be facing you to put my number there. That seems pretty obvious."
Lewis said he was surprised when the suspension came down, because Burfict did not lead with his helmet to try to make the tackle. The NFL is also emphasizing helmet-to-helmet hits.
"His head was out to the left, as you can see in every single angle," Lewis said. "Behind, front, television, All-22, it's always out to the side and in front of the player. There's no contact whatsoever. And if you have to slow down things in high definition and go frame by frame, and you're still not sure, we don't officiate the game that way. ... I don't see how the players can be held to that standard as well."