Ron Schwane/Associated Press
Jamison Hensley of ESPN.com provided a recap of the issue at hand:
“The sequence in question occurred in the fourth quarter after Burfict tackled Baltimore running back Alex Collins and a minor scuffle ensued involving several players. Video from the CBS broadcast of the game shows spit coming from Yanda’s mouth while Burfict was on the ground after the play, and Burfict had no apparent reaction.”
Yanda made the following comment on Wednesday, per Hensley:
“The video, some people are taking it crazy, but all I was doing was wiping the spit off my helmet, away from the ground. I swiped at it to make sure that it didn’t land on anybody. I don’t know if you guys know, during the course of a game, I’m like a heavy spitter. The adrenaline is fired up, and I’m spitting all the time—sidelines, on the field, but not on anyone ever. … That would never be anything that would ever even be fathomed in my mind. That’s not the player I am.“
Yanda is a six-time Pro Bowler, two-time first-team All-Pro and Super Bowl champion. The 12-year veteran has spent his entire career with the Ravens.
Burfict is a seven-year Bengal who earned one Pro Bowl nod after leading the league with 177 tackles in 2013. He hasn’t directly responded to the incident with his take, but a subtweet appeared to reveal his thoughts:
Burfict also responded to a follower presumably asking whether the NFL would punish Yanda:
The Athletic’s Bengals analyst, Joe Goodberry, and Ravens beat reporter, Jeff Zrebiec, had a substantive Twitter discussion regarding the incident. Of note, Goodberry wondered whether intent mattered at all given the spit’s direction toward the opposition:
@jeffzrebiec I usually try to as well, but when you can clearly see fluid dropping from his face and falling towards a pile of players, does intent matter? That’s the point.
Do they judge intent when handing out discipline for hits or do they decide on the action? The fact is he spit.
Zrebiec retorted that he believed intent did matter:
Jeff Zrebiec @jeffzrebiec
@JoeGoodberry Hits are disciplined when they’re deemed against the rules. In that case, intent doesn’t matter, no. What matters is league deemed it an illegal hit. There are no rules against spitting around or near a pile, so I think yes, intent in this case needs to matter.
Whether or not the NFL will do anything is up for debate, but what isn’t relevant is Burfict’s history as a dirty player. Yes, he’s clearly earned his fines and suspensions in the past, but no player deserves to be spit upon during a game.
While Yanda denies the incident emphatically, it’s hard to be judge and jury on this incident when it’s not 100 percent clear what happened even after reviewing the video.
At this point, the only thing to do is wait to see if the league office takes action against Yanda.