Cincinnati Bengals linebacker Vontaze Burfict had microfracture surgery, according to NFL.com Insider Ian Rapoport. The procedure is designed to "correct cartilage damage on the side of his knee" that "involves drilling tiny fractures in bone to develop new cartilage."
Dr. Neal ElAttrache, who performed the procedure and spoke with Rapoport over the weekend, believes that Burfict should be able to return to his old form and be healthy by training camp
"I don't see any reason, if this thing heals like we want and we think it will, why he won't be back like he was," said Dr. Neal ElAttrache, a member of the Kerlan-Jobe Orthopaedic Clinic Board of Directors, over the phone. "Microfracture has a bad connotation, but there are plenty of guys who have come back and been able to play like before. But it's not really news when it works out."
Burfict suffered a knee injury against the Baltimore Ravens on Oct. 29 and underwent arthroscopic surgery soon after. When his knee wasn't responding to rehabilitation, he was placed on season-ending Injured Reserve on Dec. 9. The Pro Bowl linebacker contemplated surgery at the end of the season to repair what wasn't fixed in October. Marvin Lewis confirmed that he went ahead with the procedure... though it wasn't known how serious the procedure actually was.
"He has to work his tail off. He has to work harder now than he did to get here," Lewis said in Mobile, Alabama this week. "Everyone in his inner circle has continued to reinforce that. He has to work harder now than he did to get here."
The hope is to regrow the cartilage with the procedure, sealing off the edges so it can't peel off and become a bigger issue. Essentially, it ceases the erosion and coats the knee. He'll stay off it for weeks, then slowly work his way back.
Despite the scary nature of the injury, Burfict and ElAttrache are optimistic.
"The goal for him is to be full-go in July," ElAttrache said. "If he's ready for minicamp, it's a bonus."
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.