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Thread: Healthy offseason has Vontaze Burfict feeling great

  1. #1

    Healthy offseason has Vontaze Burfict feeling great

    Posted by Josh Alper on May 17, 2017, 7:22 AM EDT

    Bengals linebacker Vontaze Burfict is heading into the final year of his contract and he’s doing it in a different way than he headed into the last two seasons.

    Burfict needed microfracture surgery after a 2014 knee injury that limited him to five games and started the 2015 season on the PUP list as he continued to recover. Last offseason saw him dealing with a foot injury that teamed with his season-opening suspension as reasons why he got in limited work during the offseason and preseason.

    There are no such concerns this offseason, however, and defensive coordinator Paul Guenther says Burfict is in the best shape he’s been in since his Pro Bowl season in 2014.

    “It set me back for pretty much, I would say two years because coming in you’re not able to mesh your whole body how you want to so you get other injuries,” Burfict said, via Jim Owczarski of the Cincinnati Enquirer. “This offseason I was able to focus on all the little muscles in my body, conditioning and doing all types of yogas and stuff like that. I feel great. I came in in great shape and I’m just here to try and lead the team.”

    Burfict said he’s not thinking about his contract, but he doesn’t need to spend much time pondering the state of things to know that being healthy and productive is the best path to cashing in whether he’s in Cincinnati or somewhere else.

  2. #2
    Burfict ready to turn back the clock in 2017

    Jim Owczarski , jowczarski@enquirer.com4:59 p.m. ET May 16, 2017

    (Photo: Kareem Elgazzar)

    The summer of 2014 seems like a lifetime ago.

    Vontaze Burfict was coming off a Pro Bowl campaign in 2013, recording a league-high 171 total tackles and three sacks while breaking up six passes and intercepting another. He forced a fumble and recovered two others.

    In two seasons, he had gone from an undrafted free agent with question marks to become one of the most complete linebackers in the NFL. In 32 games his first two years he had 198 total tackles, four sacks and eight passes defensed.

    The Bengals rewarded that with an extension, adding three years to what was left on his undrafted free agent rookie deal and giving him a raise for 2014 with what amounted to a $20 million contract in total.

    Little did anyone know that summer would be his last “normal” summer, at least until 2017.

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    Burfict would only play five games in 2014, his season ended early due to a knee injury that eventually required a microfracture procedure.

    That set him back to start 2015, as he began on the physically unable to perform list, causing him to miss the first six games of that campaign and play himself into shape.

    The start of 2016 began with a foot injury suffered in training, as well as the knowledge he would miss the first three games of the year due to a suspension. Bengals head coach Marvin Lewis also limited Burfict’s practice time and held him out of the preseason games.

    Burfict wound up finishing last year with 101 total tackles, two sacks, eight pass breakups and two interceptions in 11 games (his season ended early with a concussion).
    The production has been there, but for the first time since that summer of 2014, the 26-year-old linebacker was able to spend his offseason preparing his body for football from the very beginning.

    “It set me back for pretty much, I would say two years because coming in you’re not able to mesh your whole body how you want to so you get other injuries,” he told The Enquirer. “This offseason I was able to focus on all the little muscles in my body, conditioning and doing all types of yogas and stuff like that. I feel great. I came in in great shape and I’m just here to try and lead the team.”

    Burfict trained mostly in Arizona but said the biggest change was in his diet.

    “Just eating right, knowing what to eat, counting my calories and stuff like that,” he said. “That was the biggest thing for me. Just counting my calories and just seeing my body transform was huge for me.”

    After the 2015 season, Lewis talked about Burfict having to slightly alter his style of play in order to have the long career the linebacker desires. In 2016, the linebacker was penalized just twice (defensive holding, unnecessary roughness).

    For 2017, Burfict turned his attention to his body to fulfill the goal of entering the Hall of Fame conversation – ideally after at least a decade in the league. But he won’t compare this offseason to that of ’14 because he feels he knows more now than he did then.

    “(Just) more experience, getting older, knowing that the older you get the harder it is to take care of your body, and you gain weight faster; harder to lose the weight when you get older, so I just told myself I’m going to take full advantage of my offseason,” Burfict said. “I took about a month off to have fun with my daughter but then after that I got straight to training.”

    The Bengals have listed him at 255 pounds on the eve of the first organized training activities next week, a number – and a look – that reminds defensive coordinator Paul Guenther of the player that spent a week in January of 2014 in Hawaii.

    “He’s come back in tremendous shape,” Guenther said. “I have a picture of him walking out of the tunnel at the Pro Bowl and he looked lean and like he should, and I said to him the other day man, I pulled that picture out there and I said, man, you look just like that guy again.

    "He’s come back and he looks in great shape, he’s got his weight where he wants it and it’ll help him be faster. He’s not carrying as much weight so it’ll help him out with the longevity of his career and also his playing.”

    And with the release of Rey Maualuga, Burfict is now the second-longest tenured linebacker on the team behind Vinny Rey. Kevin Minter was a free agent acquisition and is on a one-year deal, and young players Marquis Flowers, Nick Vigil, P.J. Dawson and rookies Carl Lawson and Jordan Evans are looking to find their footing.

    Burfict has spoken of taking more of a leadership role in the past, but it has been somewhat thrust upon him this offseason.

    “I know – I’ve just got to help the guys out, the young guys out, and do everything little right because they’re watching me,” he said. “Just be that leader, be that role model and lead by example. Don’t ever do too much, just make sure you do your job and they’ll follow along.”

    Added Guenther: “It’s a year of becoming more of a veteran player. The longer you are in this league, the thing you realize is that you have to stop on top of your game, your shape, and everything like that. He’s one of the leaders of our defense, of our team, that shows the guys a good example of what it should look like.

    "I think every year, whether it’s a player that’s going into their tenth year or a player going into their second, you’re always looking to make some kind of revision or get better in some different way. It doesn’t matter who the player is.”

    This season also marks the final year of that $20 million extension signed three summers ago. He would like to remain with the Bengals, but he has also missed 22 of a potential 48 games over the last three seasons. This training camp is often the time the team approaches players with one year remaining on their deals about an extension, but he insists he that can’t be a concern.

    “I don’t think about it,” Burfict said. “I just come here day by day, and every day I come here just to try and get better and just be a better leader and everything else will play out for itself.”

    Burfict always sets personal and team goals for the season, and while he wasn’t quite ready to share what those are, he did share what he set out to accomplish in the offseason.

    “I just wanted to just fix my game, be a better leader, show up to everything on time, get stronger, faster, and I would say I did all those things,” he said. “And leader is still in motion.”

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  4. #4
    Given the PFF stuff, it's very encouraging for this fall. Because he missed the games for suspension and took some time to get into shape last year, he's off to a much better start.

    Also excited for Ced and Fisher to get a lot of OTA coaching and reps.

  5. #5
    He is going to want to top that Collins contract and I understand that. Wonder where the Bengals stand on paying 4-3 linebackers? Hope this doesn't become a Zeitler situation where they don't value him enough to pay him because he is probably the best WLB in the game. On the other hand you have to worry about him showing up out of shape after his first contract and the ticking time bomb that is his knee and head.

    I expect him to have a monster season. I always thought if he would shed the doughboy look and get in decent shape to become a little faster, he would probably be the top backer in the league (If he isn't already).

  6. #6
    Unlike Zeitler, Burfict is inarguably one of the top 3-4 at his position in the game. He's also THE identity and leader of this defense. IMO, he's as important to this team as Andy Dalton is. There are five superstars on this team, and Vontaze Burfict is one of them. Gotta pay him.

    My only complaint about him ever was his physical condition. If he's serious about changing that, he's got All-Pro, HOF potential. The knee and the concussion are the risks, but IMO the rewards outweigh them.

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