The odds are getting better for the Cincinnati Bengals. According to NFL Network, the Bengals announced Saturday that Vontaze Burfict was activated from the PUP list and will be able to take the field against the Pittsburgh Steelers.
Burfict played just five games in 2014 and underwent microfrature surgery, often a brutal surgery to return from. After 10 months of rehab, Burfict appears ready to get back on the field. Expect the Bengals to ease the fourth-year pro back into the rotation. There’s no need to rush him into action nd risk further damage.
The Bengals cut receiver Greg Little to make room on the active roster for Burfict. Little was not active in 2015 after seeing action in six contests for the Bengals in 2014.
The addition of Burfict to the Bengals defense makes a scary defense even scarier. His presence on the field will give the Bengals a speed boost and bolster the pass rush. The Bengals D already has the luxury of Carlos Dunlap and Geno Atkins. Getting Burfict back is like Christmas in July.
The chances of Burfict playing the entire game are slim. Bengals’ trainers and coaches have been monitoring Burfict’s progress and he seems to be way ahead of schedule. His appearance on the field will give a serious lift to the defense.
“It’s big,” cornerback Adam Jones said, per the Cincinnati Enquirer. “The good thing is he’s smart – he knows where to be, even if he’s not all the way (back) physically. I think our chemistry is guys who have been playing together for a long time and understand the defense. I just feel it’s always going to be a better chemistry if he’s in there because he’s been playing with the same people. I think it’ll be a good lift.”
Though the surgeon was initially optimistic about a summer return, Burfict was placed on the PUP list in September. This was the first week he was eligible to return to the active roster. Dr. Neal ElAttrache gave Burfict the thumbs-up after a visit to Los Angeles earlier in the week.
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. Having Burfict in the rotation again can tip the odds in favor of the visiting Bengals.
Bengals’ Defensive coordinator Paul Guenther has been waiting on this moment. Seeing Burfict get clearance will make the X’s and O’s go a lot smoother for his unit.
“There’s some matchups and different things you can do with a player like that,” Guenther said. “He’s one of our best players when he’s in there. It’s no different than having a top running back or a top receiver. Your plan changes.”
Burfict realizes that the road back has been a hard one. He told reporters Thursday that he wasn’t always eager to do the things necessary to return to action.
“I always stayed praying,” Burfict said. “There were some hard days when I didn’t feel like doing rehab, but Marvin made sure he calls me and made sure I get into the stadium. There were some hard days, but I’m here now and looking forward to playing a game.”
Burfict’s teammates were there also. They played a major role in the 25-year-old having the right mindset. The journey has paid off and the Bengals will see their Pro Bowl linebacker take the field Sunday. He may not start, but he’ll be ready to roar.
[Feature Image by George Gojkovick / Getty Images]