Cincinnati Bengals: Vontaze Burfict Is Cleared For Practice

The Cincinnati Bengals received an early Christmas gift. Pro Bowl linebacker Vontaze Burfict has been cleared for practice. Burfict has been sidelined with a knee injury for about a year. The Bengals organization has confirmed that while Burfict remains on the PUP list, he can practice for the next 21 days without counting against the 53-man roster limit.

Burfict can be activated and moved to the 53-man roster at any time during that 21-day window. That roster movement depends upon how Burfict responds to conditioning exercises and practice drills. He was limited in what he did during the Bengals’ practice Monday. Although Burfict looked in good physical condition and moved very well, he was monitored on a small field away from the full contact action.

Bengals defensive coordinator Paul Guenther is ecstatic about having Burfict back. But as he stated via the Cincinnati Enquirer, he’s willing to wait a while. Putting the hard-hitting linebacker on the field too early could cause more complications.

Cincinnati Bengals
[Photo by Joe Robbins/Getty Images]

“It’s like coming into training camp,” Paul Guenther said, earlier in the week. “You’re not going to be in football shape right away, so you can’t play a whole bunch of snaps right away. We’ll have to ease him into it when he gets back.”

Burfict received a good evaluation from specialist Dr. Neal ElAttrache on Wednesday. The belief was that Burfict was healthy enough to practice but needed the go-ahead from the Bengals. The rumors were confirmed that he was going to Los Angeles to see him.

The clock is ticking.

Marvin Lewis and the medical staff will have to use the next few days to determine whether he will be able to play immediately.

Even though Burfict has been cleared for the practice field, it would be unrealistic to expect him in the lineup against the Steelers. He’s looked in top form from a conditioning standpoint but hasn’t had serious contact in almost a year. Even expecting him to show up against the Browns on Thursday Night Football is a bit extreme.

“I’m pretty sure it’s going to be a tough game,” Burfict said earlier in the season. “Who hasn’t played in a year and come plays 70, 80 snaps in one game? So I’m just looking forward to contributing as much as I can.”

Burfict’s return is an added relief for the Bengals Defense. Though the unit has been playing inspired football, they are ranked No. 22 in the NFL. During Burfict’s absence, Vincent Rey has been a capable replacement.

Paul Guenther doesn’t doubt Burfict’s ability to overcome pain and focus. He’s seen the young man in action and knows how he reacts to adversity.

Cincinnati Bengals
[Photo by Andy Lyons/Getty Images]

“From an X’s and O’s standpoint, he can pick it all up in a day. I mean, he’s that smart,” Guenther said. “He knows our system inside and out. From a physical standpoint, everyone’s different. I remember a couple years ago he hurt his ankle in practice on Friday or Thursday. When we were traveling to San Diego, he was in a boot. He was in a boot on Saturday, and he went out on Sunday and played one of his best games as a Bengal.”

The Bengals have been dominant in their control of the AFC North this season. They currently sit at the top of the division with a 6-0 record. They travel to Heinz field Sunday for a rivalry matchup with the Pittsburgh Steelers. A win for the Bengals would set a new franchise record for wins to open the season.

Burfict’s return would be the perfect superhero story to give the Bengals an added boost on defense. But just having him on the practice field is a welcome sign to Bengals Nation.

[Photo by Andy Lyons / Getty Images]

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