Pro Bowl linebacker Vontaze Burfict had to be extremely frustrated with how the 2014 season went for him. After signing a big extension, Burfict battled concussion issues and a subsequent knee injury that ended his season prematurely. He then underwent the dreaded microfracture surgery this offseason, and Bengals fans have their teeth clenched on his future.
Still, this isn't 2005. The wonders of modern medicine continue to surprise us all and professional athletes continue to return from these types of potentially devastating injuries, while going on to resume productive careers. That's obviously the hope with Burfict, and according to his head coach at the annual owner's meetings, he appears to be on track for such a recovery.
"We have to feel positive about what’s going on with him. He’s committed to do the work and get after it because he wants to be back out there and playing... We’ve done a good job of keeping eyes on him there (California). He feels really good about the people he’s working with there under the direction of the doctor. That’s one of those, it’s a situation where he has to really feel great about the people he is working with so we’ve done a good job of trying to incorporate both us and them together in a joint effort."
Other reports on social media today noted that though there are reasons for optimism with Burfict's 2015 return, the prospect of him returning for Training Camp is still up in the air. Getting through this type of procedure is tricky and could bring setbacks.
Cincinnati has been lucky with the recoveries of some of their other stars in recent years, though. Geno Atkins returned from a 2013 knee injury suffered on Halloween to play in Week 1 of the 2014 season. Leon Hall twice returned from Achilles tears to play full seasons and Clint Boling went through a similar route as Atkins.
The big sticking point will be with Burfict himself. Will the work ethic questions that caused him to fall as an undrafted player in 2012 rear their ugly head during the rehab process and slow the star linebacker udown? Will the Bengals' staff continue to clamp down on him to stay focused? Will Burfict's new-found fatherhood and success in the recent years fuel him to get back on the field? We'll see come summertime.