NASHVILLE, Tenn. -- The topsy-turvy, often-troubled career of Cincinnati Bengals linebacker Vontaze Burfict achieved a first Sunday that he and head coach Marvin Lewis would have preferred to avoid.
With 5:12 left in the first half of Cincinnati's 24-20 loss to the Tennessee Titans, Burfict was ejected from the game by referee Jeff Triplette after Burfict made contact with a game official. Burfict was involved in a pileup just to the left of the end zone after Titans quarterback Marcus Mariota scrambled to the 1-yard line.
It was the first ejection for the six-year pro from Arizona State, who, as he walked up the tunnel to the visitors' locker room at Nissan Stadium, high-fived multiple fans.
"I've pointed it out, in those situations, everybody is over there and you just can't push back," Lewis said. "Sometimes what happens, you push back and it's the official, you can't do that. He has to understand. He knows better."
But does he? The talented but volatile Burfict has been involved in two incidents in the last month since serving a three-game suspension to start the season for an illegal hit on Kansas City's Anthony Sherman in an exhibition game.
Burfict pushed both feet in the helmet of Pittsburgh fullback Roosevelt Nix on Oct. 22 in a 29-14 loss, an action that earned him a $12,154 fine but not a suspension. This ejection carries an automatic fine with it, and further sanctions could include another suspension.
Burfict is immensely talented, but has been fined and suspended numerous times in his career. He started last year with a three-game ban after his infamous hit to the head of Pittsburgh wide receiver Antonio Brown in a 2015 wild-card game that resulted in a personal foul that helped the Steelers drive for a game-winning field goal.
The absence of Burfict couldn't have helped the Bengals on Tennessee's winning touchdown drive, when it went 73 yards in 12 plays over nearly 4 1/2 minutes. Mariota found running back DeMarco Murray for a 7-yard scoring pass with 36 seconds left, dropping Cincinnati to 3-6 and probably ending any longshot hopes of a playoff run.
If Burfict had kept his composure, he might have helped the Bengals win a game they had to have.
"It's tough for him, being one of our best players and getting thrown out of the game is not a great feeling," said wide receiver A.J. Green, who had the same thing happen to him last week in Jacksonville. "You hurt your team and I certainly did that last week. You can't lose your cool."