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Bengals LB Vontaze Burfict unlikely against the Tampa Bay Buccaneers

With four straight games missed already, Cincinnati Bengals linebacker Vontaze Burfict has missed two practices this week, strengthening a belief that he won't play this weekend against Tampa Bay.

Mitch Stringer-USA TODAY Sports

Linebacker Vontaze Burfict sat out during Thursday's practice, solidifying the belief that Cincinnati will hold their Pro Bowler out until December's stretch run against Pittsburgh (week 14, week 17), Cleveland (week 15), and Denver on Monday Night Football (week 16). Each game carries massive significance, with the Steelers and Browns within a game of the division lead and Denver making a case for the two seed, which is within striking distance for the Bengals.

Lewis told reporters on Wednesday that he could practice this week.

"He continues to get closer to being able to practice, and we'll see if we can get some practice out of him at some point later in this week. It won't be today."

Having already missed two sessions, we don't see him playing Sunday.

If Burfict sits this weekend against the Tampa Bay Buccaneers, it'll be his fifth straight absence since having his knee scoped. Following Cincinnati's 27-24 win over the Baltimore Ravens on Oct. 26, the team found "something floating in his knee". Burfict said that the injury happened in the first quarter, but thought it was only a bruise. Burfict underwent arthroscopic surgery on Oct. 27 and hasn't even practiced, much less played, since then.

"What you are talking about is something that can float in there but the problem is if it locks in the joint then your leg locks or also the fact if you leave it in there and you continue to try to play which is what his initial thought was you can do some further damage," head coach Marvin Lewis said earlier this month.

"You don't want to do that. When the adrenaline is going and things like that unless it's in the joint it's fine the problem is you don't want it to get stuck in the joint and cause issue. That's why the best thing to do is to bite the bullet right now and get it removed and get him back rehabbing and get him healthy for the rest of the way."

Having already missed two games this season (against Tennessee and New England), as well as parts against the Ravens and Falcons, and now rehabilitating from a knee procedure, one could call this season a wash for Burfict. Of the five games that he's played this season, Burfict has participated in over 50 percent of the defense's total snaps twice... Carolina and Baltimore II. December will be a huge benchmark for Burfict's 2014 campaign.

Burfict entered this season as the team's leading tackler in 2012 and 2013, where the totaled 204 stops, 94 more than the second-place finisher (Rey Maualuga). Burfict earned a roster spot on the pro bowl team and a second-team mention on the Associated Press All-Pro team. The Bengals signed Burfict to a contract extension (four-year, $19 million with $6.9 million guaranteed) on Aug. 27, keeping him in Cincinnati through 2017.