If Bengals linebacker Vontaze Burfict is tired of opening up his wallet to the NFL office, the Bengals are just as tired of the narrative that has been wrapped around their logo since last season's Wild Card Game.
Head coach Marvin Lewis admitted Wednesday he's "tired," of talking about Burfict and what he does and doesn't do on tape and insisted his player didn't deserve the $75,000 fine levied by the NFL for apparently stomping Patriots running back LeGarrette Blount after his one-yard touchdown run capped a frustrating Sunday in Foxboro, Mass.
Instead, Lewis believed Burfict was trying to get Blount to remove his hand out from underneath Bengals safety Shawn Williams' facemask at the end of the goal-line scrum.
"I agree 100 percent," said Lewis of the observation Burfict is getting judged on reputation and not film. "That's a thing he knows. He has to know that all the time. Just play football. Our guys are not going to talk about it. As I've instructed, if there have any questions about it, they can talk to me. That's the way it has to be."
Blount went after Burfict, threw him down, and was flagged for unnecessary roughness. And the Bengals object to the perception that they blew their cool because, well, they did it in the Wild Card Game, right? The Bengals, right now, are "undisciplined," even when the other team gets a taunting penalty and an unnecessary roughness penalty in the last few minutes of a 35-17 loss.
"Heck, the media does that with most things. That's the reality. Once you're labeled, it's going to be more scrutinized," said Pro Bowl left tackle Andrew Whitworth before Wednesday's practice.
"We lost because we lost. It wasn't a lack of discipline by any means. Maybe discipline as football players. Doing our jobs better. But you can say that about every team every week that loses."
Burfict just can't seem to get out of the spotlight. On Wednesday he was carted off the practice field with an ankle injury and didn't finish. But Lewis said he the injury wasn't serious and indications are he'll play Sunday.
Whitworth wonders about the "monster,' tag that now sticks to Burfict like no one else in the league after he was suspended for the first three games of this season for repeatedly violating safety rules.
"There are a lot of guys that play nasty," Whitworth said. "Nobody talks about (Steelers safety) Mike Mitchell vaulting (Bengals wide receiver) A.J. Green in our first game trying to take his helmet off on an incomplete pass. Why wasn't he judged to be a monster? He's got a lot of helmet-to-helmet hits. We all keep playing into the narrative. My point is just don't even talk about it. It's stupid. Let them talk about it."
Everyone's got the narrative. A Bengal defender said that after one play Sunday the official told them to calm down "55," even though Burfict wasn't near the play.
Upon further review Lewis, a member of the NFL Competition Committee, says he didn't see Burfict's alleged stomp on the coaches' film that was circulated Monday.
"I don't think he did anything wrong," Lewis said. "We were not in the wrong here, in my opinion. It's unfortunate. That's what I've told people, stood on, and will continue to stand on.
"I've been through it back and forth. I see him trying to step through and going to help the teammate who has a hand of another player on his facemask, pushing him in the face. That's what he's trying to get to. We'll move on, and get ready to play the Cleveland Browns. That's my distraction."
And cornerback Adam Jones said he'd like to see more Tez-like fire on a defense that is 20th in scoring, 20th in rushing and has the third worst passer rating in the league.
"Quite frankly, I think we need more guys with some more emotions. Do we need to control them at certain times? Yeah," Jones said. " But the man is being paid to be a hired hitman. There's only a couple linebackers that play with that type of aggression. Those are the great ones. Go back and look at it.
"I'm not saying Ray Lewis was a dirty player or anything, but he and Vontaze have the same characteristics," Jones said. "Exactly the same. It's just Ray Lewis grew up and found another piece of life and changed his way about doing things. Vontaze young, he's 26 years old. He'll learn. I know he doesn't want to start getting fined because that's the first thing he says. 'Man, I just don' want to get fined.' I know its biting on him. They'd been patting him on his back the first couple of games, he'd been playing better. I think he'll be all right."
Whitworth went through Sunday's play where Burfict was roasted in Twitterland for taking a shot at Patriots tight end Martellus' Bennett's knee away from the play.
"Anybody that understands anything about football knows that that play was a pump fake where they threw it at the tight end," Whitworth said. "Vontaze put his head down and dove at the tight end's legs like every linebacker in the National Football League does to tackle those big guys. And the ball actually zips right over their head. Martellus even stuck his hands up for a minute thinking he was getting the ball. The story is not that Vontaze got up and apologized to him and said 'I didn't realize you weren't getting the ball.' Martellus has even said that.
"The story is that Vontaze is a monster for doing that. The story should be exactly the situation. It's a bang-bang play, he made a mistake, he got up and immediately apologized to the player. The player even acknowledged that he apologized. But the only thing we're talking about is Vontaze is a monster. Why? Because everyone wants a story. It's not a story. It's irrelevant to talk about it."
But the Bengals are finding out that reps formed in the age of social media freeze into perceptions and die hard. A decade removed from their spate of run-ins with the law, they're still the target of outlaw jokes even though they've barely had any arrests in the last six years.
"When you have a history like (Burfict) has, they tend to look at you a lot harder," said left end Carlos Dunlap. "There was one time the ref came to us and told us to 'have 55 calm down. Something, something,' but he wasn't in the middle of the game when it happened, so I was just like, I tried to tell him, 'See, that's how they look. When stuff goes wrong, they are going to assume you were close by or involved on that time.'
"When you have a history of that," Dunlap said, "that's going to happen. You have to be aware of that and try to stay out of the middle of the thing and just play football that way." EIFERT BACK:Oh, and by the way, Pro Bowl tight end Tyler Eifert practiced Wednesday for the first time since he tweaked his back in the Oct. 3 practice. Before practice Eifert said he felt better and worked in limited fashion.
Starting center Russell Bodine (ankle), who left Foxboro in a boot Sunday, worked vigorously on the rehab field. Since they didn't add another center, it looks like he'll be able to go. As he did last week before playing Sunday, left guard Clint Boling (shoulder) didn't work Wednesday. Neither did backup nose tackle Pat Sims (neck). Left tackle Andrew Whitworth and nose tackle Domata Peko, befitting their status as team elders, got the day off. SELLOUT:The game is a sellout on a day the Bengals honor breast cancer fighters. Survivors and caregivers plan to be recognized during pre-game ceremonies, including the unveiling of an oversized pink ribbon on the field courtesy of team partner TriHealth and the presentation of the 2016 winner of the Marvin Lewis Community Fund Pink Football Award.
TriHealth also plans to distribute information at its Women's Services Van in the pre-game Jungle Zone and give pink scarves to women as they enter the gates, while supplies last. Also, more than 100 members of Zeta Tau Alpha are to distribute pink ribbons as part of their "Think Pink" program.
Tickets are available for 1 p.m. PBS games on Nov. 20 vs. Buffalo in the only home game in November, Dec. 4 vs. Philadelphia in the Eagles' first visit since 2008, and a Sunday New Year's Day game vs. Baltimore. Tickets can be purchased by phone through the Bengals Ticket Hotline at (866) 621-TDTD (8383) or online at www.Bengals.com/tickets.
SLANTS AND SCREENS: Cleveland's biggest offensive threat is wide receiver Terrelle Pryor, who was in Cincinnati in the spring of 2015 as a quarterback. On Wednesday Lewis said then offensive coordinator Hue Jackson asked him about switching to wide receiver, but he wanted to remain a quarterback and so the Bengals released him because they weren't going with three quarterbacks.
Jackson is now the head coach in Cleveland and the rest is history.
"I'm happy for him," Lewis said. "He's got great athletic ability" ...
Sunday's game marks the first time since Dec. 22, 2013 that Lewis faces a head coach who served as one of his coordinator's in Cincinnati. On that day the Bengals drilled Leslie Frazier's Vikings, 42-14. And he'll it again next week when the Bengals play Jay Gruden's scalding-hot Washington club in London after taking on Hue Jackson's Browns …
It will be interesting if the Bengals attack the Browns like Jackson did in the four previous games he served as Lewis' offensive coordinator when Cincinnati racked up 626 rushing yards on 137 carries, more than they've got this season in six games.
Marvin Lewis Community Fund hosts Hometown Huddle event at Ryan Memorial Sports Complex 10/18/2016