CINCINNATI — Vontaze Burfict was a non-entity during preseason, not even getting on the field while the Bengals figured out how they’ll do without him. Now that he’s gone on a three-game suspension, they won’t talk about him, either.
The Bengals put their combustible linebacker on the suspension list Saturday as part of their moves to get down to the 53-man roster limit. Burfict got a three-game suspension from the NFL following his hit to receiver Antonio Brown’s head during Cincinnati’s playoff meltdown against the Steelers last season.
Coach Marvin Lewis didn’t play him during the preseason, allowing the defense to get accustomed to his absence. Lewis abruptly cut off questions about the linebacker on Saturday during a conference call after the team made its roster moves.
“We’re not going to discuss what Vontaze can and can’t do,” Lewis said. “We’re not going to talk about anything to do with Vontaze. He’s no longer on the team right now.”
Burfict missed the first six games last season while recovering from knee surgery. He started the final 10 regular-season games, plus an 18-16 playoff loss to the Steelers. Burfict’s hit to Brown’s head on an incomplete pass drew a personal foul that moved the Steelers into range for the winning field goal. The NFL suspended him for that hit and several others during his career that drew fines.
Cincinnati allowed the second-fewest points in the league last season and brought back the majority of the unit.
The Bengals placed defensive tackle Marcus Hardison on injured reserve with a shoulder injury on Saturday as part of its moves to reach the roster limit. They have a couple more moves yet to make with injured players.
They kept running back Cedric Peerman and rookie cornerback William Jackson III on the roster for now. Peerman is their top special teams player — he made the Pro Bowl last season — and is expected to recover from a broken left forearm. Jackson, their top draft pick, tore a pectoral muscle but could be healthy enough to play during the season.
Teams can designate an injured player who is eligible to return after eight weeks if he’s cleared medically.
“We feel that William Jackson and Ced Peerman, from what we’ve been told, have an opportunity to possibly come back at some point during the season, so we’re going to try to keep that option open for us,” Lewis said.
Hardison was a fourth-round pick last year, when he was slowed by a knee injury and wasn’t active for games. He was hoping to earn a spot in the Bengals’ line rotation, but suffered a shoulder injury during the third preseason game.
“It’s a shame when a guy has to go through that two years in a row,” Lewis said.
Cincinnati released veteran cornerback Chykie Brown and waived 18 players, most of them rookies.