It’s been a year-long journey of redemption for Bengals weakisde linebacker Vontaze Burfict, who went undrafted out of Arizona State because of conditioning, maturity and off-field issues and a disastrous NFL scouting combine. Burfict appeared to be a lost cause who would never live up to the potential of the Go-given talents he was blessed with, but the Bengals were willing to work with him, and as the 2012 season progressed, Burfict’s play improved every week.
He went from being a backup getting limited snaps, to thrust into the starting lineup after a season-ending injury to Thomas Howard, and finished out his rookie campaign with a season-high 18 tackles in Sunday’s win over the Ravens, though the coaches credited him with 23. Either way, he fininshed 2012 as the Bengals’ leading tackler.
Burfict also got into the heads of Ravens players as he got into a pair of altercations with offensive guard Bobbie Williams and running back Ray Rice, leading to two drive-killing personal foul penalties on Baltimore on a day when the Bengals won the game by just one possession.
For his efforts, Vontaze was nominated for the NFL Pepsi Max Rookie of the Week Award. This certainly isn’t the end of his redemtion story, as he’ll enter the 2013 season as one of the leaders on defense with many players potentially leaving via free agency, and he may even find himself as the starting middle linebacker.