Vontaze Burfict has become the villain of the NFL. He doesn’t wear a top hat, black cape, or sport a handlebar mustache. When his name is mentioned, fans of the game are immediately split into separate categories. People and analysts who despise him stick to their opinion, while supporters are just as adamant. Burfict is no more than the average linebacker with a strong passion for the game. Isn’t it time to let the hatred die?
The Cincinnati Bengals’ defense is making strides. A unit that was once ridiculed and maligned — for giving up as many points as the offense scored — is finally earning respect. Instead of being hailed for finishing the year as the No. 2-ranked scoring defense, the attention is solely on Burfict. Yet, he is a huge part of the drastic turnaround.
The most recent foray into Burfict’s psyche is purely subjective. Those who truly hate him will gravitate towards seeing him as a traitor. In the minds of Burfict’s fans, he will undoubtedly look like a player being honest about his craft.
The Bengals Wild Card Round loss to the Steelers is still a painful memory to most Cincinnati fans. The blame for the loss can be spread around: the lack of offense in the first half, AJ McCarron’s ineffectiveness in the rain, and Jeremy Hill’s fumble are all candidates. Coaching decisions to run out the final minutes can also be scrutinized. But, the most popular person to blame has been Burfict.
That sentiment will surely become stronger, after a statement from Burfict. During an interview with Josina Anderson of ESPN, Vontaze gave his account of the situation. Per CBS Sports, Burfict was straightforward about what he thought.
“There was only a minute left in the game. Coach always says, ‘Trust a teammate to pack your parachute,’ and I trusted my teammate. I don’t want to say any names, but I trusted my teammates to execute and finish the game.”
There will be fallout.
The hatred and animosity will boil over and become a caldron of assumptions that will last all season. If Burfict thought he had haters before, that was just the beginning. Until Burfict is “clean” in the eyes of his doubters, they will assume he has thrown someone under the bus.
When asked directly if he blamed himself for the January 9 loss, Burfict responded with what many will say was arrogance.
“No, I don’t.”
It was totally within reason for Burfict to answer the way he did. As one of the Bengals’ leaders, he has the responsibility to call out bad play and execution. As he stated, there were no specific names given. One is left to assume who he could be talking about. Each captain is responsible for motivating their teammate(s) to play at the highest level. In the NFL, where winning is the only thing, any method is acceptable.
Yes. Vontaze Burfict needs to clean up his act. But, Burfict is not always the monster that the media has made him. Burfict’s mentor and former teammate James Harrison is notorious for his “questionable” style of play. Harrison’s thoughts on Burfict are public record.
When Harrison came to Burfict’s defense, he was thrown under the proverbial bus too. Per Fox Sports, Harrison’s style of play was put under a microscope. The report claims he appreciates a different style of football than today’s version. Isn’t that what fans pay to see?
Love him or hate him, Vontaze Burfict is one of the NFL’s most talented and polarizing figures. He is a throwback to the days of hard-hitting, slobber-knocker football that many fans don’t remember. Burfict’s approach to the game may be old-fashioned, but he’s one of the smartest players on the field. When the rest of the league and analysts realize that fact, maybe the hatred will end.
[Photo by Norm Hall/Getty Images]