As a Vontaze Burfict fan, I always can get behind reading a good story about the Cincinnati Bengals linebacker. It’s not like glowing features on Burfict are common (though, Bleacher Report’s Tyler Dunne wrote a great one last year). So when stories like the one published on Sports Illustrated’s website on Thursday come out, they’re must-reads for Bengals fans and those who want to know more about one of the NFL’s most hated players.
Andy Benoit and a SI film crew traveled to Northern Kentucky in the week leading up to the Bengals-Bills game to spend 24 hours (though it was more like 14) with the Bengals’ star linebacker. The time Burfict spent with Benoit and co. sounds highly entertaining and I recommend reading and watching everything they produced. But if you’re not going to do that, or just want to hear my top takeaways (and the things I laughed at the most) here are 12 things we learned from the SI feature on Burfict.
1) Burfict thinks he’s “right at that line” of being a dirty player, but not past the line.
“There’s a fine line in football,” he says. “And I think that I’m right at that line. Back in the day they’d probably say, ‘Vontaze Burfict, he’s a great linebacker.’ But rules change. Things change. The game changed. And I have to change with it. There’s multiple ways I’ve been changing with the game. There are plays where I’ve could have hit somebody and I’ve let off, because obviously you get a flag in this day and age. Marvin [Lewis] has been helping. Coach G [Paul Guenther] has been helping me. Change with the game. And I’ll still be that dominant linebacker."
Burfict said in the past that he wasn’t going to change his style of play to please anyone else. But, he’s changing his tone a bit. You have to agree, 20 years ago, ALL NFL fans would have thought Burfict was “a great linebacker” and no one would be questioning if he was dirty. But, the NFL is very different today than it was 20 years ago.
2) Burfict doesn’t give a shit what Le’Veon Bell or anyone else in the NFL thinks of him, his wife does though.
I don’t worry about it,” Burfict says. “People that are still talking after the game, and they won. Congratulations to them. Obviously, you must be scared of me. I think Le’Veon said something on Twitter still talking about the game. I don’t really pay attention to it. My brother had actually called me and told me, ‘Did you hear what Le’Veon said? And I’m like, ‘Nah, what’d he’d say?’ ‘He was saying something about you need to get out of the NFL. Or something like that.’ I said, ‘Man, I’m not worried about that.’ He’s just saying that, obviously, because he got hurt on two incidences of dealing with me. Both tackles were clean. One time he tried to still go for yards and the safety hit him and knees got tangled up. That’s football. He’s a great player, but I don’t listen to what other players say about me around the league. It doesn’t bother me. Because I know who I am.”
man dude gotta go man...that’s not football AT ALL!! https://t.co/IFbNZPZtWR— Le'Veon Bell (@L_Bell26) October 23, 2017
Yeah, if I were Burfict I wouldn’t care what Bell thought of me, either. He’s better off sticking to practicing and preparing for games than getting caught up in what another NFL player thinks about him.
His wife feels differently, though, which is completely fair and easy to understand. No one wants to see someone they love being hated on.
“As far as what people say about him, it does bother me,” she says, taking a seat. “He’s like, ‘Don’t pay attention to it.’ It bothers me more when people get really evil. They say some really, really hurtful things. And I don’t think that’s necessary, whether you like a player or not.”
Yeah. We see those “really hurtful” things said about Burfict All. The. Time.
3) Burfict lives 40 minutes from the stadium.
Many of the Bengals players live in Kentucky, not Ohio, which is true of Burfict. He actually lives 40 minutes away from the stadium though and has been late to the stadium twice since he moved out of downtown Cincinnati three years ago.
Benoit also says Burfict drives like “a perfect gentleman”.
4) Burfict grew up a Broncos fan
It’s always interesting to see which teams NFL players were fans of before getting into the league. Burfict is from Southen California and was a Broncos fan growing up. He wore No. 7 in high school and college in honor of John Elway. The Bengals play Elway’s Broncos in Week 11 (and have played them many times already during Burfict’s Bengals career).
For the next 30 minutes he talks about growing up a Broncos fan (he wore John Elway’s No. 7 in high school and at Arizona State), Cincinnati’s blitz packages (they can get extensive) and scouting quarterbacks’ cadences on TV (he cites a specific example where it paid off against Ben Roethlisberger last year).
5) The story of how Burfict met his now wife is amazing and so cute!
Vontaze was a painfully shy sophomore at ASU. Brandie, a junior, worked the front desk at his apartment complex. When he finally mustered the nerve to approach her, the first words out of his mouth were, “You’re going to be my wife.” Brandie laughed (a little) and said she had a boyfriend.
After that, Vontaze would see her only in passing. Then, one day—and here’s where his version and hers start to differ—Vontaze was helping a friend move in, and the residents upstairs complained that their music was too loud. Brandie knocked on the door and told them to turn it down. Vontaze contended then—and still does—that she only knocked because she wanted to see him.
“Not true,” Brandie will rebut later, when Vontaze gets home. “I didn’t even know him.” Shortly after that, there was a Facebook friend request. Brandie doesn’t remember, but Vontaze claims she friended him.
He posted something about game day, and I ‘liked’ it,” Brandie explains.
Vontaze laughs triumphantly. “You were stalking me!”
“No, who’s stalking who?” Brandie says, turning to the room for a jury. “Literally a couple of minutes after I liked his status, he sent me a message in my inbox.” The title: My Wife. Two months later they were living together.
How great is that?
6) Burfict says he’s the best Madden player on the Bengals’ roster.
He admits Joe Mixon is the next best. Burfict even bets $1,000 on Madden games with teammates, such as Cody Core. There’s a whole lot of Madden talk in the article, as well as Burfict telling a story (over and over to different audiences) about how Core recently “pretended” he lost internet connection when down 13-0 to Burfict in the game.
7) Marvin Lewis is a funny guy.
Ok, maybe we didn’t learn this from the SI article (and, this one’s not about Burfict). But, the article recounts Lewis speaking to the team in the lead up to the Bills game and one thing he said about Nick Vigil really got me laughing.
“The weather is changing,” Lewis says, the slide behind him saying “50 degrees and overcast” on the top line. “We need to change accordingly. I saw [linebacker] Nick Vigil in flip-flops”—Vigil is sitting next to Burfict in the center of the front row, five feet from Lewis—“It might be time to go to, uh, you know, shoes and socks. OK?” Also written on the slide is a reminder to wash your hands.
Also, reminding a group of grown men to wash their hands is pretty funny.
8) Jordan Evans claims he never believed in Santa Claus.
Count rookie linebacker Jordan Evans among those who have never believed in Santa... or the Tooth Fairy. OK, this one’s not about Burfict either, but it had to be included!
Then he (Burfict) gets entangled in a conversation with linebacker Jordan Evans, who claims he never believed in Santa. Burfict is baffled. What about the Tooth Fairy? Ha, of course not. And by the way, Evans has also never dressed up for Halloween.
Doesn’t everyone believe in Santa at some point?! And what’s the fun in NOT believing in the Tooth Fairy? Collect that money, Jordan!
9) Burfict gets his lunch delivered to the stadium by his personal chef.
The Bengals have a full cafeteria and tons of food, but Burfict has a personal chef who cooks him lunch and brings it to the stadium for him. Talk about service!
10) Burfict has dropped and ruined SIX iPhones in the Bengals’ hot tubs.
Come on, man! First of all, new iPhones are water resistant; get one! And second, stop dropping your phone in the water!
11) Burfict went to Paris and “pretty much only ate McDonalds”.
Burfict is not a fan of Paris or the food there. As Burfict and his wife discuss:
“He said the food was no good,” Brandie says. Vontaze offers no refutation, not even when Brandie points out that he pretty much only ate McDonalds while over there. “Which, of course, is what he would have eaten at home,” she says. “Yeah, but over there the McDonalds tastes different,” Vontaze says.
Sounds like Burfict and Chad Johnson have a love for McDonald’s in common.
12) Burfict has a framed photo of himself pointing at former NFL and USC QB Matt Barkley in his basement.
The photo is from his time at Arizona State where he faced Barkley regularly, though their rivalry (which Burfict now says is dead) dates back to high school in L.A.
The walls are covered in jerseys from current and former teammates. Leaning against the base of the wall is a framed photo of the time Burfict, in an ASU-USC game, walked up to the line of scrimmage and pointed a threatening finger right at Trojans quarterback Matt Barkley. A high school rival of Burfict’s, Barkley had been saying things leading up to that game, and the Sun Devils linebacker wanted the QB to know he was ready. Burfict laughs recounting this. Asked if he still views Barkley as a rival, Burfict, striving for politeness, admits no. He’s moved well past that.
What was your favorite part of the article? Be sure to read the full thing on SI.