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Bengals LB coach on Vontaze Burfict: 'Rehab is going as planned'

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Cincinnati Bengals linebacker Vontaze Burfict underwent microfracture surgery in January. The former pro bowler is in California and when his knee gets stronger, he'll make his way to Cincinnati to continue rehabilitation efforts.

Mike DiNovo-USA TODAY Sports

Cincinnati Bengals linebacker Vontaze Burfict is stationary at his California home, where he's recovering from microfracture surgery that occured in late January. Once he's more mobile, Burfict will return to Cincinnati to continue rehabilitation, according to Bengals.com. Linebackers coach, Matt Burke "visited Burfict and his rehab specialist in California and says the rehab is going as planned," writes Geoff Hobson.

It's logical to be concerned. Despite the advancements with sports-related injuries, microfracture surgery simply sounds scary. The procedure, as told to Ian Rappaport, 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 in late January, 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."

The team is still planning contingencies. Along with signing Rey Maualuga to a three-year deal and placing the second-round tender on Emmanuel Lamur, Cincinnati signed former Packers linebacker A.J. Hawk to a two-year deal on Tuesday.

"We all saw what happened last year in this room and that was part of the reasoning to sign (Hawk)," Burke told Bengals.com. "If we have some injuries, he’s a guy that can come in and be a Swiss army knife and to some extent help us out in different areas. You can never underestimate those types of guys with their immeasurables. I've seen it time in and time 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 and 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."

Rapoport writes:

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 last 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, 2014 keeping him in Cincinnati through 2017.