Cincinnati Bengals: Mike Brown Likes Vontaze Burfict’s Passion
When Vontaze Burfict was hit with a three-game suspension, Cincinnati Bengals fans took sides. There were the diehard faithful that looked at the WILL linebacker as a passionate throwback. Yet, there were also the angry few that called him a cancer in the locker room. With the start of training camp around the corner, the thoughts of one person have made the decision a lot easier. Owner Mike Brown has broken his silence.
On a rainy and hope-filled January 9, the Bengals were on the verge of making history. They had just scored the go-ahead touchdown and led the Pittsburgh Steelers 16-15. Twenty-five years of frustration was going to be wiped away. The city of Cincinnati was under two minutes away from celebrating a victory over the AFC North rival.
As fate would have it, the Steelers started a drive that eventually led to the winning field goal. During that fateful evening, Burfict was both the hero and goat. Earlier in the third quarter, he sacked Ben Roethlisberger and forced him from the game. Burfict also intercepted the ball at the Steelers 26-yard line, seemingly icing the game. Things changed when Jeremy Hill fumbled.
After the tears and various things thrown onto the Paul Brown Stadium field, the game ended. With the Wild Card loss to the Steelers, the little respect Burfict had faded into the sunset.
Brown had remained quiet on the topic since the final score. But with training camp a few days away, the Bengals owner decided to set the record straight on Burfict. At an annual pre-training camp luncheon, Brown offered his opinion, via Coley Harvey of ESPN.
“Burfict is one hell of a football player.”
The staunch and often ridiculed Brown was candid beyond measure. He didn’t stop there. He gave his full endorsement of Burfict.
“He makes a difference for our team. We want him on the field. And I regret that for three games this year we won’t have him, but he’ll be back then, and we expect outstanding play from him. He’s a difference-maker. We’re lucky to have him.”
When the owner gives blessings to the league’s “thug,” it may be time to look at Burfict in a different light.
Looking at Burfict from the statistical angle, Brown is merely stating facts. Although he missed the first six games of the 2015 campaign, Burfict was able to put up some sparkling numbers. He was ranked as one of the Bengals’ most productive tacklers (74). He also snagged two interceptions and a sack. Not bad for a player coming off major surgery.
Burfict’s passion for the game has come under scrutiny in the past couple of years. His questionable style of play has often drawn criticism and led some to believe he’s a dirty player. As Brown stated, the Bengals are lucky to have his fiery brand of football.
Not everything is what it seems with the Bengals’ Pro Bowl defender. The rumors are that he’s a big dumb jock. Linebackers coach Matt Burke wasn’t shy about his perception of Burfict’s skill set.
“From the outside looking in, that might not be the perception,” Burke explained via the Bengals website. “But he’s really, really smart. He’s really into it. To be able to plug that in, he’s got great retention. He remembers plays in the past and why something didn’t work. He remembers all that.”
The anti-Steelers sentiment seemed to be evident with Brown as well. While addressing the situation, he was point blank about his stance.
“I own the Cincinnati Bengals and not the Pittsburgh Steelers, so you can probably guess where I come out on that,” he offered. “But I’m not allowed to get mad. I’d be foolish to get into that kind of discussion publicly.”
Burfict may not see Brown while he’s on the field, but he seems to have a devout fan that appreciates his passion.
[Photo by Jeff Haynes/AP Images]