ASU alumnus Vontaze Burfict needs a change in scenery

The Bengals linebacker needs a new team to set him straight

One of the NFL’s most vigorous and ruthless players is former ASU football star and current Cincinnati Bengals linebacker Vontaze Burfict.

The former ASU linebacker just finished serving a three-game suspension for a blind side hit on Kansas City Chiefs fullback Anthony Sherman in a preseason game.

Even before his latest episode with the NFL, Burfict was a discipline issue in college. In his time in Tempe, Burfict had 22 personal fouls in just 37 games.

After failing to get picked in the 2012 NFL Draft, Burfict was signed by the Bengals and was an immediate force on the defensive side of the ball, racking up 127 total tackles in just his rookie season.

"I think (Burfict) is terrific," said Jay Morrison, Bengals beat writer for Cox Media Group. "I think he is one of the best linebackers in the league. The Bengals are a obviously different team when he is on the field, but that's been the problem keeping him on the field, whether it be injury or suspension."

Although Burfict has become one of the NFL’s best linebackers — his lack of control and poor judgement on the field resulted in him racking up over $800,000 in fines and forfeited money before his most recent incident with the Chiefs.

"He has a track record," Morrison said. "He's got a previous history and he has been warned about those kind of plays."

There is certainly no obvious anecdote for Burfict’s sins, but a change in scenery may help the former ASU linebacker.

Burfict has spent his entire NFL career thus far with the Bengals, an NFL franchise that has had a knack for having players with disciplinary issues.

Current Bengals cornerback Adam Jones has lost almost $2.2 million in fines in his career, former Bengals wide receiver Chad Johnson (formerly Chad Ochocinco) paid $50,000 in fines in the 2009-10 NFL season alone, and another former Bengals wide receiver Terrell Owens was fined $5,000 for tweeting just before a game.

It is safe to say that the Bengals have a history of failing to discipline players, but have any of Cincinnati's players been corrected from their poor habits with a new team?

The answer is yes. 

Former Cincinnati running back Corey Dillon was certainly a troublemaker in his time with the Bengals. Dillon was arrested in 2000 for fourth-degree assault and in the same year said that he would rather “flip burgers” than return to the Bengals for the 2000-01 season.

After his seven seasons in Cincinnati, Dillon was traded to the New England Patriots in exchange for a second-round pick. New England transformed Dillon into a disciplined and better running back as he would rush for a career high in yards and help the Patriots win their third Super Bowl in the 2004-05 season.

Given the history of undisciplined Bengals players and the story of Dillon, it seems as if Burfict needs to explore other options.

Bengals head coach Marvin Lewis has been the man in charge during this time of conflict. With the antics of Jones, Johnson, Owens and Burfict all occurring under his watch, it is clear that Bengals management has not been and is not effective enough to change these players' behaviors.

A Bengals fan cannot realistically expect a team void of suspensions, fines and immaturity as long as the current hierarchy of Lewis and team owner Mike Brown are running the franchise.

"I don't think (Lewis) would still have a job if he was coaching any of the other 31 teams, but the Bengals are just a different animal," Morrison said. "They honor their contract to a default." 

If Burfict’s disciplinary issues are ever going to be resolved, he needs to join a new team that can set him straight.


Reach the columnist at kokiriley3@gmail.com and on twitter @Arizonasian.

Editor’s note: The opinions presented in this column are the author’s and do not imply any endorsement from The State Press or its editors.

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