The Cincinnati Bengals got good news Thursday with the return of one of their defensive leaders.
The team announced that linebacker Vontaze Burfict has been cleared to practice and come off the active/Non-Football Injury (NFI) list. The NFI designation is used for players who come into training camp with an injury suffered outside of organized team activities.
It’s also possible that the Bengals gave this designation to Burfict because he arrived to camp overweight and wanted to give him a chance to get into better shape before resuming practice. Burfict sat out most of the offseason workouts while reportedly being overweight. He's been working on the rehab field and on the side doing conditioning through the first five days of camp, so it will be good to see him back on the field practicing, hopefully today.
This isn't the first time that Burfict came into training camp with some sort of health issue. A knee injury suffered midway through the 2014 season, along with concussions, limited Burfict to just five games that season. Subsequent surgery kept him sidelined for much of the 2015 offseason; he would go on to open the year on the PUP list and miss six games to start the season while recovering.
But once he returned, Burfict went on to register 74 tackles, five pass deflections and two interceptions while helping Cincinnati notch 12 wins and an AFC North crown. However, multiple safety violations will have him suspended for the first three games of 2016, meaning he'll be barred from the team for the first three weeks of the regular season.
Seeing as how Burfict got out of shape while away from the team for a longer period this offseason, hopefully he doesn't make the same mistake twice and returns from his suspension ready to rock in Week 4. (We’re sure he will!)
It's also worth noting that head coach Marvin Lewis said Burfict will not play in the preseason, so it may not be until the Week 4 clash with the Dolphins on Thursday Night Football that we see Burfict playing in any kind of live NFL action.