Maybe it shouldn't be expected just yet.
Cincinnati still isn't providing details or timelines for Vontaze Burfict's eventual return. The fourth-year linebacker has undergone several procedures since last Oct., including micro-fracture surgery that will impact training camp, if not the first six games into the 2015 regular season. It's believed Cincinnati will place Burfict on the Physically Unable to Perform list this week; a procedural step, ensuring eligibility on PUP for the regular season. According to league rules, if Burfict doesn't open training camp on PUP, he won't be eligible for PUP during the season and the team will lose a roster exemption during the regular season.
There is optimism, however. Burfict has released a series of training videos showing improved versatility and strength.
Guenther reiterated during Tuesday's media luncheon that Burfict is "our quarterback on defense, and the difference maker."
Burfict suffered a knee injury against the Baltimore Ravens on October 29, 2014 and underwent arthroscopic surgery soon after. When his knee wasn't responding to rehabilitation, he was placed on season-ending Injured Reserve on December 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 earlier this year. "Everyone in his inner circle has continued to reinforce that. He has to work harder now than he did to get here."
In December, NFL.com's Ian Rapoport wrote:
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 was the Bengals' leading tackler in 2012 and 2013. In 2013, he totaled 204 stops, 94 more than the second-place finisher (Rey Maualuga). Burfict earned a roster spot on the Pro Bowl team that year 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 the end of the 2017 season.