Vontaze Burfict returned to Bengals practice on Thursday for the first time since Organized Training Activities in the spring.
Right before the start of training camp, the Bengals placed Burfict on the Active/Non-Football Injury list, meaning he had an injury suffered outside of football. Yesterday, he was cleared to practice and Marvin Lewis noted that he planned to ease Burfict back into action.
Burfict quickly made a play in his return to the field, though, he was playing with the second team. The play came on an AJ McCarron pass intended for tight end John Peters, and Burfict batted it down, making his presence felt on the field.
Many have speculated as to what Burfict’s injury was. He did show up to OTAs overweight and was reportedly being disciplined by running laps with Rey Maualuga who also showed up out of shape. But, Burfict seemed to imply after practice on Thursday that his injury wasn’t just showing up with some added weight.
“The first day out here I had the little jitterbugs coming out here,” Burfict said via the Dayton Daily News. “I felt good, and my injury feels good.”
Burfict seems to be saying that there was a real injury, which is now doing better and reacting well to practice. There’s no need for him to share the details on what the injury was, so we’ll likely never know. But, it at least seems like the Bengals weren’t just being precautious and there was a reason he was on the NFI list.
“Everyone else had three days ahead of me with pads and everything so the first day I put the pads on, I felt a little heavy. You just have to get used to it,” Burfict said of getting reacclimated to practice. “It’s great to be out here with my teammates competing. I got tired.”
Practicing for the next few weeks is really important for Burfict as he’ll be sitting out for the first three weeks of the regular season due to suspension. To make sure he doesn’t get tired when he’s playing in Week 4 on Thursday Night Football against the Miami Dolphins, Burfict needs to get in all the work he can between now and the Monday before Week 1. That’s when he begins his suspension and won’t be on the grounds of Paul Brown Stadium.
UPDATE: Burfict tells ESPN's Bob Holtzman he had a foot injury during pre-camp training, and that he came to Cincy three pounds overweight.