The Highlight: NFL 'villain' Vontaze Burfict says he'd be celebrated 'back in the day,' but now has to 'change with the game'
Vontaze Burfict doesn't have many fans outside of Cincinnati.
The Bengals star linebacker is the poster child of what's wrong with the NFL. Whether it's shots to the head, strikes to the groin or twisting ankles, Burfict's behavior on the field has quite literally cost him millions in fines and forfeited paychecks.
Speaking with Sports Illustrated, Burfict says he's working to adjust his game to the times.
“There’s a fine line in football,” Burfict says. “And I think that I’m right at that line. Back in the day they’d probably say, ‘Vontaze Burfict, he’s a great linebacker.’ But rules change. Things change. The game changed. And I have to change with it. There’s multiple ways I’ve been changing with the game. There are plays where I’ve could have hit somebody and I’ve let off, because obviously you get a flag in this day and age. Marvin [Lewis] has been helping. Coach G [Paul Guenther] has been helping me. Change with the game. And I’ll still be that dominant linebacker."
It's not everyday an NFL player calls for another to be booted from the league, but Burfict isn't the norm.
All Pro Steelers running back Le'Veon Bell did just that after beating Cincinnati on Oct. 22. He also retweeted a video of what appeared to be Burfict trying to kick Steelers fullback Roosevelt Nix. Days later Burfict was fined $12,154 by the league.
“I don’t worry about it,” Burfict says. “People that are still talking after the game, and they won. Congratulations to them. Obviously, you must be scared of me. I think Le’Veon said something on Twitter still talking about the game. I don’t really pay attention to it. My brother had actually called me and told me, ‘Did you hear what Le’Veon said? And I’m like, ‘Nah, what’d he’d say?’ ‘He was saying something about you need to get out of the NFL. Or something like that.’ I said, ‘Man, I’m not worried about that.’
"He’s just saying that, obviously, because he got hurt on two incidences of dealing with me. Both tackles were clean. One time he tried to still go for yards and the safety hit him and knees got tangled up. That’s football. He’s a great player, but I don’t listen to what other players say about me around the league. It doesn’t bother me. Because I know who I am.”
Burfict's aggressive play style wasn't enough to scare his employers. Prior to the season he re-upped with the Bengals on a three-year extension worth $38.68 million with a $3.3 million signing bonus.
“A lot of people say, ‘Oh he’s a dirty player. He does this. He does that,’” Burfict explains. “That’s all people just watching from the outside. I’ve been with Marvin six years now, and he’s seen who I am as a person. He’s seen me around my family. He knows I have a good, genuine heart. He just wants other people to see that rather than people always trying to bash me.
I told him [the bashing] doesn’t bother me. Still, he was like, ‘Well I’m going to put a foot forward and try to help.’ And I’m happy to do it, too.”
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