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Vontaze Burfict returns to Bengals

The suspension is over for Vontaze Burfict, which means the Bengals get their best playmaker on defense back.

NFL: Pittsburgh Steelers at Cincinnati Bengals Aaron Doster-USA TODAY Sports

Vontaze Burfict’s four-game suspension is over, and the BengalsPro Bowl linebacker returns.

The team announced Monday that they were given a one-week exemption for Burfict, during which the team may activate him at any point. The exemption expires on Monday, Oct. 8, though we should expect the Bengals to fully activate him and place Tyler Eifert on injured reserve later this week.

Burfict should be in the lineup in the Bengals’ Week 5 matchup against the Dolphins, marking his first game since December 24th, 2017. He has missed his third straight opening day due to suspension. This time, Burfict got a four-week ban due to violating the NFL’s PED policy early this year.

The suspension was the result of a failed drug test on December 27, 2017 — three days after he had been ruled out for the season. Burfict did appeal the suspension, saying that he would not take PEDs to gain an advantage when he was not even playing. Burfict argued that he was on prescription medication after suffering a concussion against the Steelers on December 4th that year and a Grade 3 shoulder AC tear against the Lions on December 24th, which was the last game he played.

The NFL rejected his appeal, so the four-game ban stood.

As of Monday, his suspension is finally has ended.

For the first time since September 5th, Burfict will be allowed in back Paul Brown Stadium and will be allowed to practice. On Sunday, he will get a chance to play in his first game since Week 16 last year, filing his familiar role of WILL linebacker. The Bengals will finally get to see the combination of Preston Brown and Vontaze Burfict at linebacker, which will surely help a struggling defense.

The Bengals have given up 28 points per game, including giving up 68 points in the last two games and a whopping 36 to the Falcons in Week 4. The linebackers have been especially vulnerable during the first four games, so Burfict will be a welcome addition.

When healthy, Burfict has been one of the best linebackers in the NFL. The only two seasons he has played in all 16 games were his first two years as a pro in 2012 and 2013, and he recorded 127 and 171 combined tackles respectively in those first two seasons. He broke the century mark again in 2016 after playing in 11 games.

Burfict played ten games last season, missing time due to both a suspension and several different injuries. He had 69 combined tackles and 1.5 sacks a year ago.

The Bengals will need a boost if they want to keep their place atop the AFC North. The Bengals are currently 3-1, but by the time they play the Steelers in Week 6, that could be a game that determines who leads the division. The Bengals will be glad to have Burfict back for that one.