TEMPE, AZ - SEPTEMBER 24: Vontaze Burfict #7 of the Arizona State Sun Devils points and yells at quarterback Matt Barkley #7 of the University of Southern California Trojans just prior to a play at Sun Devil Stadium on September 24, 2011 in Tempe, Arizona. (Photo by Norm Hall/Getty Images)
At first people were terrified of linebacker Vontaze Burfict. Not because of a bruising nature to destroy ball-carriers already freaking out about stealing Alvin Mack's mother's car, or quarterbacks concerned about sending Mack's brother to jail. Rather the overall lack of seriousness that Burfict showed during the predraft process, of which dropped him out of the 2012 NFL draft entirely. Still the Cincinnati Bengals signed him as an undrafted free agent and they may have been impressed not just for the product on the field, but showing a dedication to set things right.
According to head coach Marvin Lewis (via Joe Reedy of the Cincinnati Enquirer), linebacker Vontaze Burfict reached out to the Bengals head coach following Arizona State's Pro Day:
"It was just the fact he took the opportunity to find my phone number because I don't know that I gave it to him. To call me, to write me a letter, to do some other things. He got my phone number and called me and said, 'I hope I get an opportunity.' I said, 'I hope you do, too.'."
As Reedy points out, when Lewis was in Arizona for another matter last week (his daughter's wedding), he spent two hours with Burflict "going over the playbook and preparing him for this weekend."
"We will continue to get him in shape. He's a better conditioned athlete now than he was at the combine and at ASU in March . If he continues to go down that path, he seems bright enough to learn. He seems willing to want change this image people have of him."
There's no doubt that film on the kid shows enough talent that the Bengals could use, especially at middle linebacker. If he gets his head straight, and keeps it straight, one could make the argument that Burfict won't just be Rey Maualuga's replacement (contract year), he could be a long-term solution.
That being said Lewis made it a point that Burfict has some ways to go to even make the roster, writes Geoff Hobson:
But Lewis made it clear Burfict has a long way to go to have a chance at making this roster. He and his coaches aren't enamored with Burfict's lack of fundamentals and they're going to start by trying to turn him into a "knee bender" instead of his present state as a "waist bender."
"He can be a good football player," Lewis said. "Learn to bend his knees, play behind his pads, strike people within the whistles and life is good. There is no downside to it. I'm excited."