burfict CINCINNATI, OH – JANUARY 09: Vontaze Burfict #55 of the Cincinnati Bengals reacts in the third quarter against the Pittsburgh Steelers during the AFC Wild Card Playoff game at Paul Brown Stadium on January 9, 2016 in Cincinnati, Ohio. (Photo by Joe Robbins/Getty Images)

The NFL sent a powerful message Thursday: If you’re going to hit a defenseless receiver really hard in the head with the power of your entire 250-pound body, don’t do it in the closing minutes of a playoff game.

The league upheld Vontaze Burfict’s three-game suspension for the hit he delivered to Antonio Brown in the Bengals’ wild card round win over the Steelers, according to ESPN’s Dan Graziano.

According to ESPN’s James Walker and Coley Harvey, Burfict will meet with commissioner Roger Goodell to discuss his history of illegal hits, which contributed to the length of his supension.

Burfict’s three-game ban is a pretty dramatic punishment for an on-field offense. We commonly see players ejected for hits like Burfict’s and maybe even suspended a game, as with Odell Beckham Jr., but three games away from the field is about as extreme as it gets. This is ostensibly due to Burfict’s history of dirty hits, but the linebacker had never been suspended before, despite comparably barbaric hits, and a three-game ban represents a pretty steep jump up the NFL punishment gradient. Burfict’s collision with Maxx Williams in Week 17 earned him only a $50,000 fine but this one will cost him three games (and $500,000 in salary)?

Clearly, the severity of this suspension also has to do with the way Burfict embarrassed the NFL in a big situation with millions of people watching. After the Steelers beat the Bengals that night, all anyone could talk about was how foolish the Bengals made themselves look in the game’s final minutes and how brutal Burfict’s hit on Brown was.

So Burfict, who recorded 74 tackles last season, will miss the Bengals’ first three games, in a suspension that puts every NFL player on notice: Don’t take brutal cheap shots and especially don’t take brutal cheap shots when everyone is looking.

About Alex Putterman

Alex is a writer and editor for The Comeback and Awful Announcing. He has written for The Atlantic, VICE Sports, MLB.com, SI.com and more. He is a proud alum of Northwestern University and The Daily Northwestern. You can find him on Twitter @AlexPutterman.