Following the final rookie minicamp practice at a soggy Paul Brown Stadium, Bengals head coach Marvin Lewis was asked if he was pleased with linebacker Vontaze Burfict this weekend.
"Very pleased, very pleased. He's done well," Lewis said. "It will be great once we get deeper into special teams. In order for linebackers to stay around they have to be a big-time contributor on special teams."
Sunday's single-session dealt mostly with special teams.
"I thought in the (three days ) of special teams work we've had out here he's done a nice job of picking up the assignments. He's in great football position. Those are things. If you watch the tape of him you see him do it two or three times a game. Now you're seeing him do it three plays in a row. That's the key. He'll be fine."
Despite head coach Marvin Lewis admitting that Vontaze Burfict has a long way to go to make the team this year, the linebacker is somewhat of an intriguing case. Failing to take the predraft process with any level of seriousness forced Burfict to consider his options following the 2012 NFL draft, one of which was reaching out to Bengals head coach Marvin Lewis.
With the "what do we have to lose file" in mind, Lewis and the Cincinnati Bengals took the risk, in the hopes that Burfict will "get it" while offering a return in their trusted investment. Will he become a force on special teams as a backup middle linebacker? Is he the eventual heir to Rey Maualuga's throne? No one can say in mid-May and it's up to Burfict to continue the promising discussion of a kid finally coming to terms with what it might take to reach the next level.
Along with the need to develop a cool head while working on overall technique, Burfict has taken the first steps by dropping "over 15 pounds" since the NFL Combine, reporting to "minicamp at 248" pounds.
There will be plenty of time for Burfict to continue developing from now until training camp, relearning proper technique, getting into further shape and learning the NFL game and Mike Zimmer's overall defensive philosophy. If he takes those giant leaps to get better, the Bengals have a good option at linebacker. If not, then they lose nothing. But for now his path follows special teams.