Bengals linebacker Vontaze Burfict had his suspension reduced from five games to three after he appealed the NFL’s decision.

Vontaze Burfict, Marvin Lewis and the Cincinnati Bengals were vindicated.

Sort of.

James Thrash, the NFL and NFL Players Association’s appeals officer for on-field discipline, ruled to reduce Burfict’s five-game suspension to three games on Wednesday, the league announced.

In a release from the NFL, Thrash ruled the three games came down because of “repeated violations of player safety rules.”

In the letter notifying Burfict of his suspension, NFL vice president of football operations Jon Runyan wrote: 

“This is not your first offense with respect to illegal hits to defenseless players; to the contrary, this incident is consistent with your pattern of egregious safety-related violations including your hit on a defenseless player during the 2015 Wild Card game and your hit against a Baltimore tight end away from the play on January 3, 2016…When players violate the rules intended to protect player safety on a repeated basis, and particularly when the violations carry with them a significant risk of injury to an opposing player…you must be held accountable for this continuing unacceptable conduct.” 

The Bengals linebacker was initially disciplined for breaking two rules for a hit on Kansas City Chiefs fullback Anthony Sherman on Aug. 19 – hitting a player in a defenseless posture and unnecessary roughness.

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The defenseless posture rule specifically protects the head and neck area, and Burfict and the Bengals staunchly maintained that the linebacker hit Sherman in the chest – though Sherman’s head did snap back upon contact.

“I hit harder than most of the other linebackers,” Burfict said. “He kind of crunched up. I lowered my target, hit him straight in the chest. I talked to him the next series to see if he was alright and he said yeah, that’s a legal hit. You’ve got to keep your head on a swivel when you come across the middle and everybody knows that.”

After hearing…