New Bengals linebackers coach Jim Haslett's NFL experience goes all the way back to 1979 as NFL Defensive Rookie of the Year.
Vontaze Burfict may be public enemy No. 1 in the eyes of the National Football League, but his new boss can't wait to coach him. After being introduced as the Bengals new linebackers coach on Friday, Jim Haslett called him one of the top players in the league.
"He's got great instincts. I understand he's very, very smart," Haslett said via conference call. "He's very powerful. He's one of the best tacklers I've seen in a long time. Just watching tape and not having met him yet, he's one of the top linebackers in the National Football League."
Just before Haslett took the call, the NFL released its fines from Saturday night's Wild Card Game, where Burfict's high hit on Steelers wide receiver Antonio Brown earned him a three-game suspension as the latest in a series of repeated offenses.
Bengals cornerback Adam Jones got hit for $28,940 for unsportsmanlike conduct when he brushed an official trying to reach Steelers assistant coach Joey Porter, illegally on the field before the Steelers last play. Porter was fined $10,000 and so was Steelers offensive line coach Mike Munchak for grabbing Bengals safety Reggie Nelson by the hair after a play on the sidelines.
Bengals nose tackle Domata Peko was fined $8,681 for unnecessary roughness and Bengals defensive lineman Wallace Gilberry was fined $8,681 for unsportsmanlike conduct. Steelers left guard Ramon Foster was fined $17,363 for unnecessary roughness with a leg whip.
Steelers cornerback Antwon Blake, who appeared to launch into tight end Tyler Eifert, wasn't fined. Neither was Steelers guard David DeCastro when he drove Burfict into the ground after the whistle, nor Steelers linebacker Ryan Shazier even though he appeared to hit running back Giovani Bernard in the chin with the crown of his helmet.
According to ProFootballTalk.com, NFL vice president of officiating Dean Blandino in his weekly video said the reason Shazier didn't get fined is because it was the proper hit. Bernard wasn't defenseless because he established himself as a runner, so he can be hit in the helmet with a helmet.
Although a 2013 rule prevents crown-of-the-helmet hits, PFT cited Blandino saying "the play lacked the key element of the player 'lining up,' the opponent." But, PFT said, Blandino hinted a new rule is coming.
That would make three rules re-written after Steelers seriously hurt Bengals: Bernard-Shazier Saturday night, Kimo von Oelhoffen on quarterback Carson Palmer's ACL in 2005, and wide receiver Hines Ward's blind-side block that broke linebacker Keith Rivers' jaw in 2008.
Adam Jones accused Antonio Brown of faking it on Burfict's hit and said he would apologize if Brown didn't play this weekend in Denver. The Steelers ruled out Brown Friday with a concussion and according to ProFootballTalk.com, Jones apologized via Instagram:
"AB – My apology, my brother. I'm a man of my word. I've been doing a little traveling so that's why it took so long. But I apologize, sincerely. Get well."
Haslett has been around long enough starting from when he was the 1979 NFL Defensive Rookie of the Year to have seen it all. Starting in 1997, he's been a defensive coordinator for the Steelers, Rams, and in Washington during a run that has book-ended a six-year stint with the Saints as head coach.
So he'll bring loads of experience to Burfict and the rest of the linebackers room.
"The stuff off the field, I think that comes with age. He'll grow out of some of those things," Haslett said. "Not knowing him, it's hard for me to say, but I know things get blown up. From what I've seen on the field, he's dynamic and I really like him. He's smart, instinctive and a heck of a player. I hope I can do whatever I can to help him out and make him better."