If there’s one thing to like about rookie linebacker Vontaze Burfict going forward, it’s his fire and passion for the game of football. That can also lead him to go a little over the edge during games. Ravens runningback Ray Rice, whom Burfict got into a scuffle with during their Week 17 matchup, actually was praiseworthy of the rookie linebacker:
I talked to him after the game and you know what? I was honest with him. He’s going to be a great linebacker in the league. I just told him that if he ever got to the point where he let his pads do the talking, he’ll be all right. I got carried away myself but he’s a young guy. I didn’t say anything until I went to three Pro Bowls. There’s no need to leave things on the field. There’s no hate. There’s none of that.
Guard Bobbie Williams also recounted a confrontation with Burfict in that same gmae:
“I like him. He plays hard,” Williams admitted. “I respect him.”
But not before the former Bengal pointed to a mark on his leg.
“This is where he kicked me in the shin. “I was like, ‘you little … .’ “
Burfict will now enter his first full NFL offseason, and if he can continue to keep his head on straight and maintain the work ethic that helped him rise from an undrafted free agent to the Bengals’ leading tackler (174), he’ll likely be the new starting middle linebacker and centerpiece of a defense expected to be in the top-10 again in 2013.