The Bengals defense hasn't had the flash of attitude that players like Ndomukong Suh supplies the Lions or the passion that Ray Lewis gives the Ravens. The Bengals may have found that attitude and passion in rookie linebacker Vontaze Burfict, who was known for his attitude while in college.
Burfict, as all of you know, has been one of the biggest and best stories of 2012. The Bengals signed him as an undrafted free agent after he had fallen from the first round after a disastrous combine and a senior season in which he struggled after putting on weight. Marvin Lewis reached out to him, though, and the two formed a strong bond, leading the Bengals to sign him after the draft. Since then, Burfict has worked his way into the starting lineup, after his impressive play and Thomas Howard's season-ending injury. Burfict now leads the Bengals in tackles from the WILL spot, and has shown that he has what it takes to not only start in the NFL, but possibly lead an NFL defense.
In the Bengals Week 17 game against the Baltimore Ravens, which they won by a score of 23-17, we got a sense that Burfict is beginning to feel comfortable enough to flash that attitude and passion that he showed in college. The Ravens running back Ray Rice and former Bengals offensive lineman, now Ravens' guard Bobbie Williams both stated after the game that their personal foul penalties resulted from Burfict "getting under their skin."
"I told him he'll be a great player if he didn't talk so much," Rice said. "I got a personal foul messing with him. I don't know if it was that personal. I cut him and went back and I finished him off. He's going to be a good player. He's feisty, that's what I told him. You see a young guy like that and talent will only take you so far."
Williams, on the other hand, was much more soft spoken, as Williams usually is.
"He's just a young pup out there," Williams said. "Hey, it's football. He gave me a kick, it is what it is."
Burfict, on the other hand, believes that Rice was the one who was dealing out the cheap shots, which is why he believes Rice got the personal foul and he didn't.
"He chopped me," Burfict said of Rice. "I don't know what he tried to do, but he tried to take a cheap shot. That's football. At the end of the day, he got a personal foul and I didn't. Big man wins. The old Vontaze would have did exactly what he did, talked a little [stuff] and then walked off."
I normally don't care for players talking trash on the football field. I've always been much more impressed with players who let their play do the talking and keep their mouths shut, much like Geno Atkins. However, I also feel that the Bengals defense has lacked a certain attitude and meanness that Burfict seems to bring to the table.
I enjoy watching him play and I look forward to seeing him get under more opposing players' skin, as long as it doesn't result in too many penalties.