The Cincinnati Bengals look to be keeping Vontaze Burfict in 2018 even if he does serve a suspension according to Marvin Lewis.
Cincinnati Bengals linebacker Vontaze Burfict has been circling the media these last couple weeks as he is facing yet another suspension. The last two seasons Burfict has started the year off on suspensions for hits during a game. This year it looks like he will serve four games for violating the NFL’s Performance-Enhancing drug policy.
Burfict, who just signed a three-year extension last September, has struggled over the last few years to be a consistent on the field member for the Bengals. Whether it’s suspensions or injuries, Burfict has only been on the field for 56.2% of the Bengals games the last four years. In the last two seasons starting out without him, Cincinnati has gone 1-5.
Head coach Marvin Lewis talked about not being worried about the suspension as the team knew about it in December. The Bengals staff seem to be putting pieces in place for while Burfict is gone including signing inside linebacker Preston Brown who led the league in tackles in 2017. Brown will play a big role in covering up the weakness of Burfict not being on the field for the first quarter of the 2018 season.
"“The biggest thing is Vontaze wants to be held in high esteem. You have to keep earning that and he’s enduring a setback and he has to get over that and get back to football and being a leader,” Lewis said. “He and Andy (Dalton) have to lead the team. That’s important that he’s able to do that and get going. I guess fortunately or unfortunately he’s been able to come out of missing the first part of the season and he’s pretty good hitting the ground running. He likely has another opportunity to do that again.”"
While Burfict looks to appeal his suspension, it’s unlikely that he will be able to get it overturned. Lewis and the Bengals staff seem to be ok with taking on these kinds of issues as they have always stood behind Burfict and gone to bat for the veteran linebacker. Since he was brought in as an undrafted free agent due to his character issues, Lewis has defended him with every mistake he has made in the NFL.
Cincinnati has also taken on some more players with previous lockerroom issues in defensive tackle Chris Baker and offensive tackle Bobby Hart. Baker was cut from Tampa Bay this offseason after just signing a three-year extension before the 2017 season. There were rumors that he had gotten into a verbal altercation with quarterback Jameis Winston following a loss to the divisional rival Carolina Panthers late last season.
Regardless, Lewis seems to be ok with bringing in and staying behind these players with issues. Whether that is good for the team or not and whether the team should cut ties with some of these players is surely an opinion for most fans. It would seem that Burfict will remain in Cincinnati in 2018 and we will see him starting in week five.