I don’t think anybody will dispute the title of nastiest player in the NFL for linebacker Vontaze Burfict. Nasty, of course, meaning dirty in this context, and not necessarily as a big or violent hitter. He simply does a lot of things on the football field that are outside of the bounds of the game.
Which is why he has lost several million dollars over the course of his seven-year career in fines and suspensions, almost all of which were due to his on-field conduct. He did receive one suspension for violating the performance-enhancing drug policy.
With the Cincinnati Bengals parting ways with Marvin Lewis, they and new head coach Zac Taylor are also cutting the cord with Burfict, so the question is now, will anybody be calling for his services? Because it’s not just his behavior that is the issue at this point in his career—it’s also his ability to play.
Take this damning Tweet from Katherine Terrell, a Bengals beat writer. “The brutal truth is that not only did he play poorly, but he didn’t give 100 percent effort at times”, she wrote. “And I say that not just from what I myself saw, but what opposing players told me on they saw on film and members of the coaching staff told me”.
The brutal truth is that not only did he play poorly, but he didn’t give 100 percent effort at times. And I say that not just from what I myself saw, but what opposing players told me on they saw on film and members of the coaching staff told me
— Katherine Terrell (@Kat_Terrell) March 18, 2019
This is the guy that his teammates named a captain last season.
There are very few people in the NFL that I could actually say that I dislike, because I don’t get involved too deeply into the emotional attachment to rivalries in sports. I judge athletes the same way I do everybody else, based on their behavior. I dislike Burfict, as a person, more than any other professional athlete I can think of, at least based solely on what he does on the field, and among those currently playing or expected to play.
But what kind of market will there be for him? He hasn’t even played more than 11 games in any season since 2013. He was limited to just seven games in 2018 due to suspensions, injuries, and concussions. In fact, he has a growing and concerning history with concussions that may threaten to end his career sooner rather than later.
Burfict is still 28 years old. He theoretically should still have some good football left in him. But while he might put up some stats, the eye test shows his frequent ineffectiveness. There was a steep drop in his play from 2017 even to 2018.
The question that potential suitors will have to consider in evaluating his tape is whether or not he can return to form in a full, healthy season. Can he still be a Pro Bowl-level player? Because once upon a time, he legitimately was very good. In the only season in which he started all 16 games, he recorded 177 tackles and three sacks with a forced fumble and an interception.