Last week, it was reported that Rey Maualuga and Vontaze Burfict were both not practicing in OTAs. At the time, there wasn't information about why either player was missing practice. Burfict had taken part in at least once session during the second week of OTAs but was reportedly sitting out of drills the first and third weeks. Meanwhile, Maualuga missed all three open practices.
It's a bit too early to worry about players not being at practice, but simply not knowing the reason for their respective absences left fans guessing as to how serious the issues were.
Now, we finally have an answer as to what's going on. Both players were noted as being "grossly overweight," by Dave Lapham in an interview with Dan Hoard, as heard on James Rapien's show on ESPN 1530. Lapham explained his thoughts on their absences:
Vontaze Burfict with the microfracture knee repair, you'd think that he wouldn't want to carry on any extra weight at any time. Particularly, during the season, but the offseason as well. Hopefully, he'll be able to get that weight down.
This isn't anything particularly new for Burfict, who has regularly dealt with weight problems in both his college and NFL career. However, Lapham makes a very good point about his repaired knee potentially being impacted. Is it really acceptable for him to be overweight in the offseason when he needs to keep in mind a knee injury that has recently undergone surgery?
Then, there's Maualuga, who is already a relatively slow linebacker as it is. He excels when it comes to closing speed and getting past blocks, but his overall speed is lacking. Adding extra weight to carry around on that frame is only going to make that situation worse. According to Lapham, his weight gain appears to be a much bigger issue than Burfict's.
[Burfict] does not have as much to lose as Rey Maualuga. Rey has got quite a bit of weight to lose. I know they've done it in the past and yo-yo'd their weight. But, this time, Rey looks real big this time. Hopefully he's going to be able to get that weight off of him pretty quickly.
The fact that Maualuga came out of the offseason so heavily overweight is concerning at first glance. That's not to say that the issue becomes acceptable once you look at it some more. But, let's not forget, like Burfict, Maualuga's weight gain in the offseason is nothing new and is something that he has experience in overcoming.
In both of the last two seasons, Maualuga has been criticized for being overweight in the offseason. But, he's managed to drop the pounds each time and hasn't let it affect his play during the season. He has also never missed a season opener in his NFL career.
Burfict has missed a season opener, but that was due to a major knee injury suffered in 2014 that kept him sidelined for the first six games of 2015. In 2016, he'll have plenty of time to get back into football shape through the rest of the offseason and preseason, as well as the first three games of the regular season, which he will be sitting out due to a suspension anyway. Hopefully, both players can overcome their weight problems before the season begins and Burfict's knee isn't negatively impacted by the extra weight.
We'll see whether the duo is practicing tomorrow when mandatory minicamp begins. You'd think at least Burfict will be as he participated fully in the Tuesday session during the second week of OTAs when the media was in attendance.