By Joe Kay
AP Sports Writer
CINCINNATI — The Bengals defended linebacker Vontaze Burfict on Wednesday for his actions during a loss to New England, which drew a $75,000 fine from the league, according to a person familiar with the situation.
Burfict was fined for stepping on Patriots running back LeGarrette Blount after he scored a touchdown near the end of New England’s 35-17 win on Sunday, according to the person, who spoke on condition of anonymity because fines for this week have not yet been announced by the league.
Coach Marvin Lewis disagreed with the linebacker’s punishment.
“I don’t think he did anything wrong,” Lewis said. “We were not in the wrong here, in my opinion. It’s unfortunate.”
The volatile linebacker has a history of violating player safety rules. His hit to Antonio Brown’s head gave the receiver a concussion and moved the Steelers in range for their winning field goal in the final minute of Pittsburgh’s 18-16 victory over the Bengals in the first round of the playoffs last season.
The NFL suspended Burfict for that hit and numerous other ones during his career.
Burfict wasn’t in the locker room while it was open to the media on Wednesday. He suffered an ankle injury during practice in the afternoon that forced him to sit out the end of the session, but Lewis said it’s not believed to be serious.
The defending AFC North champions are 2-4 — their worst start in six years — as they host the Cleveland Browns (0-6) on Sunday. Burfict is expected to play.
Cornerback Adam “Pacman” Jones, who also drew a penalty that helped set up Pittsburgh’s winning kick, said opponents are trying to rile Burfict during games to provoke an incident.
“He is (targeted), but everybody knows what it is,” Jones said. “At a certain point, you just have to go play football and try not to let it bother you the way you play. Me talking to Tez, it does bother him.”
Burfict had another play in New England that drew scrutiny. He hit Martellus Bennett in the side of the knee when the tight end wasn’t the intended receiver on a pass by Tom Brady. The tight end got up limping. No flag was thrown, but the play was shown repeatedly during the television broadcast.
“My point is that stuff like that happens during a football game,” left tackle Andrew Whitworth said. “Once you’re labeled as a guy that does that, it becomes a bigger topic. It happens in football every day and unless you’re going to point out everybody that does it, don’t single out individuals.”
Browns receiver Terrelle Pryor tried out for a backup quarterback spot with Cincinnati last year but was released. He got to know Burfict during his time with the Bengals.
“I saw the hit on Martellus — it didn’t look good, but I personally like Burfict,” Pryor said on Wednesday. “I like the way he plays the game, not from the standpoint of some dirty stuff that goes on, but I think he’s a heck of a player.”
Notes: The Bengals announced that the Browns game has sold out. … TE Tyler Eifert returned to practice on a limited basis. He hasn’t played this season because he’s recovering from offseason ankle surgery and he hurt his back a couple of weeks ago. … C Russell Bodine (ankle), G Clint Boling (shoulder) and DT Pat Sims (neck) were held out of practice. Bodine suffered an ankle sprain at New England.
AP Sports Writer Tom Withers in Cleveland contributed to this report.
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