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Vontaze Burfict looking better in first public appearance

Cincinnati Bengals linebacker Vontaze Burfict made his first public appearance since undergoing microfracture surgery earlier this year. He's crushing tee shots now.

Andy Lyons/Getty Images

Cincinnati Bengals head coach Marvin Lewis hosted his annual Marvin Lewis Community Fund Golf Classic on Sunday. As we navigate through the collection of tweets and pictures -- all of which show people having a better time than you -- one tweet was especially encouraging and awesome to see:

Vontaze Burfict driving off the tee.

For those of you who haven't experienced the game of golf, there's a lot of torque and stress when crushing a tee shot. The harder the swing, the more stress that's placed on your knee. The fact that there's any torque/stress being applied to his knee, while walking away from it, is encouraging.

Burfict underwent microfracture surgery earlier this year. The procedure is designed to "correct cartilage damage on the side of his knee," which "involves drilling tiny fractures in bone to develop new cartilage." Dr. Neal ElAttrache, who performed the procedure and spoke with Ian Rapoport earlier this year, 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 his 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.

Until recently, most reports had Burfict stationed at his California home. Linebackers coach, Matt Burke "visited Burfict and his rehab specialist in California and says the rehab is going as planned," wrote Geoff Hobson earlier this offseason. The team planned and signed 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 and drafted TCU linebacker Paul Dawsonwho has characteristics that are comparable to Burfict.

Burfict entered this season as the team's leading tackler in 2012 and 2013, during which 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.