FOXBORO, Mass — Vontaze Burfict has a reputation, and it’s not necessarily a good one.
The Cincinnati Bengals linebacker is known for his dirty hits, especially the ones he made during last season’s AFC Wild Card Game loss to the Pittsburgh Steelers in January. And he was back in the news Sunday during the Bengals’ 35-17 loss to the New England Patriots at Gillette Stadium.
The game, which started as a close back-and-forth battle, was starting to get away from the Bengals in the fourth quarter when Burfict went low on Patriots tight end Martellus Bennett.
Bennett said after the game that Burfict apologized for the hit, but Rob Gronkowski still got in the controversial linebacker’s face twice during the same drive, the last of which led to a taunting penalty.
“Just playing football, man,” Bennett said of the chippiness. “It gets like this some times. You know, we have guys that don’t back down from anyone and play hard throughout the whole game. And that just is what it is. We don’t back down. We’re not looking for trouble, but we don’t walk away from trouble either.”
And Bennett appreciated his teammate having his back.
“Gronk’s a tough dude. He doesn’t back down from anyone, and I love playing with him,” Bennett said. “I was super excited. I was like, ‘Whatever you do, I got your back.’ That’s just how we roll.”
“Yeah, man, that’s what it is,” he added. “That’s who we are. We always have each other’s backs if things happen in the game. It was one of those things that just happened — it usually doesn’t happen that way, but Gronk was like, ‘I got you.’ And the same thing with him. So we just kind of try to set the tone.”
Gronk wasn’t the only Patriots player who had a few run-ins with Burfict and the Bengals late in the game.
Running back LeGarrette Blount, whose running helped the Patriots close out the win, capped off the scoring with a 1-yard touchdown run with 57 seconds remaining, and he immediately proceeded to send a message by shoving Burfict.
That decision led to another personal foul for the Patriots.
“You play football, it’s a lot of guys, testosterone, egos,” Blount said. “You know, you’re losing the game, you’re winning the game. You’re celebrating, and everybody sees that you’re having fun, you know what I’m saying. And ultimately when you have guys that are losing games, it’s not easy to take. I mean, that goes for anybody. We just got to keep our composure and continue to play football.
“We know that they’re an intense team. They’re emotional, they’re passionate, they love the game. Tempers flare whenever things aren’t going their way. We just got to continue to play ball. We just got to continue to stick to our game plan and continue to try to win games.”
And they did exactly that, even while tempers flared.
Thumbnail photo via Stew Milne/USA TODAY Sports Images