There are few players in the NFL who can match Vontaze Burfict when it comes to consistently crossing the line of propriety. And the Cincinnati Bengals linebacker is about to play for the first time since being suspended three games to open the season after making an illegal hit that some questioned during the preseason.
So he might be extra feisty.
Cleveland Browns head coach Hue Jackson spent two years with the Cincinnati Bengals and knows firsthand just how the explosive linebacker operates. Because of that, he’s warned his players ahead of Sunday’s game not to respond to Burfict’s act.
“Coach Jackson addressed that on Wednesday in the team meeting about some of the things that he likes to take part in and just warned the guys about being smart,” said running game coordinator Kirby Wilson, per Mary Kay Cabot of Cleveland.com. “We don’t want to get in a situation where we’re responding second and being the one that gets caught and all of the sudden you’re playing behind the chains again and defeating yourself.”
Jackson also spoke to the media about what he said regarding Burfict. He made it clear that Burfict is “a good player.”
“He’s tough. He loves football. He’s kind of the straw that stirs the drink for their defense. They have a good defense, and he’ll just make it better. He’s a really good player, a really fine player.”
Whether this was an unspoken challenge to his team conveyed through his quotes to the media or simply an off-the-cusp statement, Jackson also said he’s hoping Burfict gets triggered in the upcoming game.
“I hope he gets penalized in our game. …I’m going to say it again and Vontaze knows how I feel about him as a player: he’s as fine a linebacker as I’ve been around. He’s a tremendous football player, a heck of a person and a heck of a teammate. That’s just what he is and he plays the game the way you would want any linebacker in this league to play it.”
Burfict is known as a guy who’s not afraid to lead with his helmet — just ask Antonio Brown about that. Let’s hope, for everyone’s sake, he doesn’t do anything stupid on Sunday in his first game back.