Bengals fans and Cincy Jungle readers, we've got a treat for you today. I recently caught up with former Bengals linebacker, Adrian "Maddbacker" Ross, who played with the team from 1998-2003. He spent some time with me discussing his playing days, and then we jumped to the current season.
He had plenty to say about Vontaze Burfict and the current state of the Bengals, following their loss to the Colts. Read up on all of his insights below.
Alex: Adrian, thanks for sitting down with me for an interview today.
We'll start with your NFL career. I'm sure you have a plethora of interesting stories from your playing days. What was your favorite moment on the field as a Cincinnati Bengals linebacker?
Adrian: My favorite moment on the field was the year we played against the Denver Broncos and rushed for over 430 yards! Corey Dillon broke Walter Peyton's single-game rushing record. I got the start at middle linebacker and was out there smackin' fools! [laughs] I knew the game was on back in Colorado. I knew a lot of people I went to college with would be watching the game.
Alex: That sounds like it would have been a very cool game to play such a part in. Speaking of your playing days, are there any guys that you played alongside with that you were especially close to, perhaps off the field as well? Do you still keep up with them 10-15 years later?
Adrian: Yeah, I was really cool with Takeo Spikes, Akili Smith, and Corey Dillon. I still talk to them.
Alex: Do you have any particularly fun story that you shared with any of those players?
Adrian: There was one funny story with Corey Dillon. He's such a competitor. He competed at everything, whether he had to cheat or not. We were playing John Madden football and I was beating him. I tried to stop the game because we had to leave to get to the airport for an away game.
Corey had to finish the game because he felt he had a chance to try to come back to win. So we finish the game, I won, but now we're late for the plane and Corey says, "don't worry, I'll get us there." So he was driving a hundred miles an hour and we got pulled over on the way to the plane. I'll just say there was no ticket and we made the plane.
Alex: At least you were able to make the plane!
So just to transfer over to the current setting of the NFL, I wanted to ask you specifically about Vontaze Burfict. You both play(ed) linebacker, and you also both went undrafted out of your respective colleges, so the parallels are very intriguing. What are your thoughts on Burfict's style of play and what he bring to this Cincinnati defense?
Adrian: I like Burfict. I tried to sign him out of ASU. I spoke with him when he was there his sophomore year & tried to give him advice on channeling his temper. My teammates in Cincinnati nicknamed me the Maddbacker for my temper. I told him there is a time and a place to express your anger.
I like his talent and his aggressiveness. It's exactly what the Bengals needed. He is a very talented player. I have seen a lot of growth from Vontaze thus far, and I expect to see more. With the right talent surrounding him.....he could be the Defensive Player of the Year in the future.
Alex: As the Bengals leading tackler the past two years, he's definitely helped establish a strong defensive core for Cincinnati.You hit the nail on the head as far as his aggressiveness. It's a trait that you like to see as a defensive coordinator, especially when it comes to a player with so much talent. However, as you also stated, there's a time and place to express it. What are your thoughts on his ankle tackles on Cam Newton and Greg Olsen in the game against Carolina? Was the league correct in fining him, or do you think that a suspension should have been handed down? Football fans have seen it with their eyes, but they're also not in the moment like Burfict is. Therefore, I'm curious if you, as someone who's played the position, have a different outlook on it.
Adrian: I did the same thing to Elvis Grabac when we played the Ravens. I think I broke his ankle. I don't like how the tackler gets all of the punishment! The referees need to blow the whistle. And when you're trying to get someone down on the ground, who can tell whether you're trying to injure them or not? Now for the one on Cam Newton....that was late!
Alex: I can certainly see how the speed of the game might take things out of a black-or-white perspective with regard to late hits.When judging the Bengals' defense as a whole, there have been games where they've been dominant and other games where it's been the complete opposite. Do you see health as the main issue with the inconsistency, or do you believe there are other, compounding reasons for the defense's holes in the last few games?
Adrian: Health plays a part! It goes hand-in-hand with what I was going to say the problem has been. And that's experience! When you have to subdue to injuries, generally the subs haven't gotten enough reps! So through the course of a game, they tend to mess up little things that become big plays for the [opposing] offense.
Alex: Indeed, it's hard to perform well without the proper practice. And for my last question to you, Adrian, what are your final thought on this Cincinnati Bengals team as a whole? They've had some ups and downs, but how far do you see them going this season?
Adrian: My final thoughts on the Bengals is that they are a talented team. But they have too many number one's on the roster. Everybody thinks they are the starter and the coaches treat the team as such. They call plays and play like they are average and don't have enough talent. You've been wanting talent, now it's there.....oh you still can't win, huh?
So.....I guess that means it must be the coach then. [laughs] When I was there, they wanted a linebacker that could cover the TE allegedly.....but now the TE is still open? They are finding out that it's not as simple as being athletic and going cover. You have to put the right talent in the right places!
Alex: Absolutely. Well, Adrian, I think that sums up everything I had for you today. Thank you again for taking the time to provide all the insight you've given us.
Oh, and readers, check out this video of the Maddbacker leveling Rodney Thomas, former running back for the Tennessee Titans. You'll enjoy it, I promise.