Vontaze DeLeon Burfict Jr. (pronounced /ˈvɒntɛz ˈbɜːrfɪkt/ VON-tez BUR-fikt;[2] born September 24, 1990) is an American football player for the Cincinnati Bengals of the National Football League (NFL). He was signed by the Bengals as an undrafted free agent in 2012.[3] He played college football at Arizona State.

Burfict was considered the most highly ranked football prospect Arizona State ever signed to a letter of intent,[4][6] but had an up-and-down career for the Sun Devils. An All-American in 2010, Burfict was projected an early first round pick for the 2012 NFL Draft on the eve of his junior season.[2][14][15] However, a mediocre on-field performance and poor pre-draft workouts deteriorated his draft stock. He went on to have a productive rookie season, starting 14 games and leading the team in tackles.[10]

 

 

High school career

Burfict attended Centennial High School in Corona, California, where he was part of an undefeated Huskies team that won a CIF title, a state championship with the help of quarterback Taylor Martinez, and was ranked second in the nation by USA Today in 2008. That year, Burfict led the Huskies with 159 tackles, two quarterback sacks, two interceptions and two fumble recoveries. Burfict participated in the US Army All-American Bowl and was the third-leading tackler for the West team. He also earned numerous All-American honors, including Parade.[2]

As a junior, Burfict collected a team-high 130 tackles and added four sacks, two interceptions and one fumble recovery. He helped anchor a linebackers unit that included fellow Sun Devils Shelly Lyons and Brandon Magee. Corona Centennial finished the 2007 season as No. 24 on USA Today‘s Top 25.[2]

Burfict missed almost all of his sophomore season due to academic problems.[2]

He played in the 2009 U.S. Army All-American Bowl. Considered a five-star recruit by Rivals.com and Scout.com, Burfict was listed as the No. 1 inside linebacker prospect in the nation.[2][2]

US college sports recruiting information for high school athletes
NameHometownHigh school / collegeHeightWeight40Commit date
Vontaze Burfict
LB
Corona, CaliforniaCentennial High School (CA)6 ft 2 in (1.88 m)245 lb (111 kg)4.6Feb 4, 2009 
Recruiting star ratings: Scout:   Rivals:   247SportsN/A    ESPN grade: 85
Overall recruiting rankings: Scout: 1 (MLB)   Rivals: 1 (ILB), 2 (CA)  ESPN: 1 (LB)
  • Note: In many cases, Scout, Rivals, 247Sports, and ESPN may conflict in their listings of height and weight.
  • In these cases, the average was taken. ESPN grades are on a 100-point scale.

Sources:

  • . Rivals.com. Retrieved 2012-03-17. 
  • . Scout.com. Retrieved 2012-03-17. 
  • . ESPN.com. Retrieved 2012-03-17. 
  • . Scout.com. Retrieved 2012-03-17. 
  • . Rivals.com. Retrieved 2012-03-17. 

College career

 

Burfict originally committed to play for the USC Trojans, but eventually switched to Arizona State on National Signing Day.[2] He joined ASU's 2009 class that included three of his high school teammates.[2] By July 2009, he struggled to meet admission standard based on the NCAA eligibility sliding scale and still had one summer school class to complete.[2] Sun Devils coach Dennis Erickson, who compared Burfict to Ray Lewis,[6] expected him to be academically eligible for enrollment.[2] Burfict did qualify on time for the 2010 football season.

By midseason, Burfict ranked second in the team with 30 tackles despite starting only three of six games, and had five tackles for a loss, two sacks, and three pass break-ups. ESPN named him Arizona State's midseason defensive MVP.[2] In a road game against Georgia on September 26, Burfict collected a season-high 11 tackles (three solo) and one and half tackles for loss. He led the Sun Devils in tackles in five games over the course of the season. By the end of the year, he had collected 69 tackles, seven tackles for loss, and a pair of sacks, and was named a Freshman All-American by College Football News,[3] and by the Football Writers Association of America.[4] He was also honored as the Pacific-10 Conference Defensive Freshman of the Year.

At the start of his sophomore season, Burfict was named First-Team Preseason All-American by The Sporting News. He was also named to the watchlists of the 2010 Rotary Lombardi Award and the Bronko Nagurski Trophy.[24]

On October 6, 2010, Burfict was benched by Arizona State head coach Dennis Erickson. The reason given was Burfict's unusually high number of personal foul penalties.[25] In a game against Stanford, Burfict was called for grabbing the facemask of Doug Baldwin, and—after complaining to the referee—charged with a personal foul for unsportsmanlike conduct that gave Stanford a first down at the ASU 7.[26] Two plays later, Stanford scored what turned out to be the winning touchdown.[27]

Burfict finished the 2010 season with a team leading 90 tackles, 8.5 for a loss, and two forced fumbles. The Sporting News selected him to their All-American team, as well as Pacific-10 Defensive MVP.[28] Burfict is ASU's first 1st team All-American since Terrell Suggs.

With senior cornerback Omar Bolden lost for the season to a knee injury, Burfict was expected to take over as the leader of the Sun Devils defense in 2011,[29][30] but eventually had a rather inconsistent junior season. Burfict decided to forgo his senior year at Arizona State and entered the 2012 NFL Draft.[31]

Professional career

2012 NFL Draft

When he entered his junior season, Burfict was regarded as one of the best linebackers available in the 2012 NFL Draft, projected to go as high as the fifth pick.[2][14][15] Problems on and off the field at Arizona State, however, caused his draft stock to plummet. In October 2011, Sports Illustrated′s Tony Pauline still ranked him as the No. 20 prospect on his midseason draft board, but noted that he has been "a loose cannon on and off the field, which has raised red flags."[4]

Burfict entered the NFL Combine rated as the third best inside linebacker, behind Luke Kuechly and Dont'a Hightower, but his "disappointing" performance—including a 5.09 sec in the 40-yard dash, slowest among linebackers—caused some analysts to project him as a third day (Rd. 4-7) draft pick.[4][4] NFL scouts also faulted him for his interview process, in which he blamed the Arizona State coaching staff for his mediocre junior season.[4] Later it was also reported that Burfict tested positive for marijuana at the combine.[4]

Pre-draft measurables
HtWtArm lengthHand size40‑yd dash10-yd split20-yd split20‑ss3‑coneVert jumpBroadBP
6 ft 1 14 in
(1.86 m)
248 lb
(112 kg)
31 14 in
(0.79 m)
9 34 in
(0.25 m)
5.09 s    30 in
(0.76 m)
9 ft 8 in
(2.95 m)
16 reps
All values from NFL combine, except BP (ASU Pro Day)

At the Arizona State pro day on March 16, Burfict had an "average" performance by his own estimation.[4] According to Sports Illustrated's Tony Pauline, Burfict "looked poorly conditioned and out-of-place in drills".[4][4] In their draft coverage, SI.com projected him as 7th round to undrafted.[4] Burfict eventually went undrafted, but was signed by the Cincinnati Bengals as an undrafted free agent.[3]

 

2012 season

An undrafted rookie, Burfict managed to make the Cincinnati Bengals' roster. He played in all 16 games and started 14 of those, finishing the seasons as the Bengals' top tackler with 127 combined tackles, including 18 tackles in their final game of the year against their divisional rival Baltimore Ravens. When Burfict was on field, the Bengals defense allowed 2.4 yards fewer per play, allowing 4.5 compared to 6.9 when he was off the field.[10]

2013 season

For incidents that occurred in the 34–30 win over the Green Bay Packers in Week 3 of the 2013 season, Burfict was fined a total of $31,000.[4] He had hit a defenseless receiver (James Jones) and intentionally struck an opponent in the groin (Ryan Taylor).

Burfict finished the 2013 season leading the NFL in tackles with 171, and was the only Bengals defensive player selected to the Pro Bowl. He was the first Bengals linebacker to make the Pro Bowl since Jim LeClair in 1976. Burfict also topped the list for the NFL'Performance-Based Pay' program with earning $299,465.[83]

2014 season

Image
 
Burfict at Bengals training camp in 2012

On August 20, 2014, Burfict signed a four-year contract extension with the Bengals.[44]

On October 10, 2014, Panthers tight end Greg Olsen accused Burfict of intentionally trying to injure Olsen and Panthers quarterback Cam Newton by twisting their ankles after the play was over.[45] On October 15, 2014, Burfict was fined $25,000 for twisting ankles on both Newton and Olsen.[46]

2015 season

On December 15, 2015, Pittsburgh Steelers quarterback Ben Roethlisberger accused Burfict of having intentionally targeted his ankle in the teams' regular season game on December 13.[47] Burfict was fined for the hit a few days later and planned to appeal.

On January 9, 2016, in the AFC Wild Card Round against the Steelers, Burfict committed a critical penalty with 18 seconds left in the fourth quarter, when the Bengals were leading Pittsburgh 16-15. Ben Roethlisberger had reentered the game, drove from inside his own 10 yard line, and crossed midfield into Bengals territory. The penalty, which was for an illegal hit to the head on Antonio Brown after Brown had converted a 4th and 3 for a 1st down into Bengal territory, which together with a second personal foul by Adam Jones positioned Pittsburgh to kick a go-ahead field goal and win the game, 18-16, and advance to the divisional round against the Denver Broncos.[49] On January 11, the NFL announced that Burfict would be suspended for the first three games of the 2016 season for repeated violations of player safety rules.

2017 season

On August 28, Burfict was suspended for the first five games of the 2017 regular season due to a hit he made on Chiefs fullback Anthony Sherman in the second preseason game.[59] On August 30, he appealed, and his suspension was reduced to three games.[60] On September 7, Burfict signed a three-year extension worth $38.68 million with a $3.3 million signing bonus.[61] During Week 7 against the Steelers, Burfict lunged both his feet in the face mask of Roosevelt Nix before trying to get back up. The scene occurred with 43 seconds of regulation beginning, but no flag was thrown.[62][63] On October 27, Burfict was fined $12,154.[64] During Week 10 against the Tennessee Titans, Burfict's troubles continued as he committed two personal foul penalties. The first penalty was a late hit on DeMarco Murray, and the other was unsportsmanlike conduct, where he bumped into an official (although camera footage did not show). Burfict was subsequently ejected for the first time in his NFL career, and left by imitating a celebration taunt by Johnny Manziel.[65][66][67]

Career statistics

YearTeamGPGSTacklesInterceptionsFumbles
CombTotalAstSckSFTYPDefIntYdsAvgLngTDsFF
2012Bengals161412773541.0--2------------
2013Bengals1616171114573.0--611212.012--1
2014Bengals55291514----2----------1
2015Bengals10107457171.0--52168.016----
2016Bengals111110173282.0--825427.047--1
Total58565023321707.0--2358215.747--3

Personal life

Burfict was born in South Los Angeles. His father, a gang member and convicted cocaine dealer, was incarcerated most of the time and never had a relationship with his son.[51] His mother, a city transit bus driver, initially raised Burfict and his older half-brother DaShan Miller (b. 1986) on her own, but eventually remarried and moved to Corona.[51][52] Like Burfict, Miller was a football player at Corona Centennial High School, and later played college football at UTEP and Akron.[52] Miller was eligible for the 2010 NFL Draft, but he went undrafted.