Vontaze DeLeon Burfict Jr. ( VON-tez BUR-fikt; born September 24, 1990) is an American football linebacker for the Oakland Raiders of the National Football League (NFL).
He started in the Cincinnati Bengals’ season-opener at the Chicago Bears and recorded eight combined tackles, deflected a pass, and made his first career interception during a 24–21 loss. Burfict intercepted a pass by Bears’ quarterback Jay Cutler, that was originally intended for running back Michael Bush, and returned it for a 12-yard gain during the fourth quarter. 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. He was fined for a hit on a defenseless receiver (James Jones) and intentionally struck an opponent in the groin (Ryan Taylor). On November 17, 2013, Burfict collected a season-high 15 combined tackles (ten solo), broke up a pass, and returned a fumble recovery for his first career touchdown during a 41–20 win against the Cleveland Browns in Week 11. Burfict forced a fumble by Browns’ running back Chris Ogbonnaya, recovered the ball, and returned it for a 13-yard touchdown. On December 27, 2013, it was announced that Burfict was selected to play in the 2014 Pro Bowl. He became the first Bengals linebacker to be selected to a Pro Bowl since Jim LeClair in 1976. Burfict started in all 16 games in 2013 and recorded a career-high 171 combined tackles (114 solo), made six pass deflections, three sacks, one interception, one forced fumble, one fumble recovery, and scored one touchdown. Burfict led all players in tackles in 2013 and also topped the list for the NFL’s Performance-Based Pay' program with earning $299,465.
During Week 4 against the Indianapolis Colts, Burfict made a helmet-to-helmet hit on Jack Doyle, and was ejected from the game. The next day, the NFL suspended Burfict for the rest of the 2019 season without pay. In a letter to Burfict notifying him of the suspension, NFL vice president of operations and chief disciplinarian Jon Runyan told Burfict that he had continued to "flagrantly abuse" player safety rules despite numerous warnings from the league. This became the longest suspension for on-field misconduct in modern NFL history, more than doubling the five-game suspension mandated to Albert Haynesworth in 2006. Burfict appealed his suspension, but on October 9, jointly appointed hearing officer Derrick Brooks–like Burfict, a linebacker–upheld the suspension. Three days earlier, on October 6, the NFL notified Burfict that it had found another illegal hit during the Week 4 game. During the second half, he also made a helmet-to-helmet hit against Colts running back Nyheim Hines, although no penalty was called during that time.
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.
Burfict originally committed to play for the USC Trojans, but eventually switched to Arizona State on National Signing Day. He joined ASU's 2009 class that included three of his high school teammates. 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. Sun Devils coach Dennis Erickson, who compared Burfict to Ray Lewis, expected him to be academically eligible for enrollment. Burfict did qualify on time for the 2010 football season.
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. 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. Two plays later, Stanford scored what turned out to be the winning touchdown.
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, but eventually had a rather inconsistent junior season. Burfict decided to forgo his senior year at Arizona State to pursue a career in the NFL.
Prior to his junior season, Burfict was regarded as one of the best linebackers available in the 2012 NFL Draft and was projected to be a first round pick by NFL draft experts. Problems on and off the field at Arizona State, however, caused his draft stock to plummet immensely. In October 2011, Sports Illustrated′s Tony Pauline ranked him as 20th best 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." On January 3, 2012, Burfict announced his decision to forgo his senior season and enter the 2012 NFL Draft. Prior to the NFL Combine, Burfict was ranked as the fifth best linebacker prospect in the draft by NFL analyst Mike Mayock. He attended the NFL Scouting Combine and performed the majority of drills, but skipped the short shuttle and three-cone drills after injuring his hamstring on his second 40-yard dash attempt.
He made his professional regular season debut in the Cincinnati Bengals’ season-opening 44–13 loss at the Baltimore Ravens. On September 23, 2012, Burfict earned his first career start at weakside linebacker after Thomas Howard was placed on injured reserve after tearing his ACL during practice. He recorded seven combined tackles during the Bengals’ 38–31 win at the Washington Redskins in Week 2. The following week, Burfict made eight solo tackles, broke up a pass, and made his first career sack during a 27–10 win at the Jacksonville Jaguars in Week 3. Burfict sacked Jaguars’ quarterback Blaine Gabbert for an 11-yard loss in the fourth quarter. On December 30, 2012, Burfict collected a season-high 18 combined tackles (ten solo) as the Bengals defeated the Baltimore Ravens 23–17. Burfict finished his rookie season in 2012 with 127 combined tackles (73 solo), two pass deflections, and one sack in 16 games and 14 starts. He led the team in tackles as a rookie and finished 15th among all players in the league. 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.
His overall performance was described as "disappointing" due to a 5.09 sec in the 40-yard dash, which was the slowest among all linebackers. Burfict also finished last among linebackers in the broad jump and finished second to last among linebackers in the vertical jump. On March 16, 2012, Burfict attended Arizona State’s pro day and performed the bench press (16 reps), vertical jump (30”), short shuttle (4.56s), and three-cone drill (7.51s). Burfict described his overall pro day performance as “average”. On April 25, 2012, it was reported by Fox Sports insider Jay Glazer multiple NFL teams had been informed that Burfict had failed his drug test at the NFL Combine. Burfict later stated during an interview with Scout.com that he admitted using marijuana to NFL general managers. At the conclusion of the pre-draft process, Burfict was projected to be a seventh round pick by NFL draft experts and scouts. Burfict was ranked as the ninth best inside linebacker in the draft by Scouts Inc. and was ranked the tenth best inside linebacker by DraftScout.com.
Burfict went undrafted in the 2012 NFL Draft. On April 29, 2012, the Cincinnati Bengals signed Burfict to a three-year, $1.44 million contract that featured a signing bonus of $1,000.
The Cincinnati Bengals finished first in the AFC North with an 11–5 record in 2013 and earned a playoff berth. On January 5, 2014, Burfict made seven combined tackles and was credited with half a sack as the Bengals lost 27–10 against the San Diego Chargers during the AFC Wildcard Game.
The Cincinnati Bengals finished second in the AFC North with a 10–6 record and earned a wildcard berth. On January 5, 2013, Burfict started his first career playoff game and recorded six combined tackles during the Bengals’ 19–13 loss at the Houston Texans in the AFC Wildcard Game.
Burfict sustained a concussion while sacking Ravens’ quarterback Joe Flacco during the Bengals’ season-opening 23–16 victory at the Baltimore Ravens. The following week, Burfict sustained another concussion during a 24–10 win against the Atlanta Falcons. Burfict remained in concussion protocol due to concussion related symptoms and remained inactive for the next two games (Weeks 3 and 4). On October 12, 2014, Burfict collected a season-high ten combined tackles (seven solo) during a 37–37 tie against the Carolina Panthers in Week 6. On October 14, 2014, Panthers’ tight end Greg Olsen accused Burfict of intentionally trying to injure him and Panthers’ quarterback Cam Newton by twisting their ankles after touchdowns by both. On October 15, 2014, the NFL fined Burfict $25,000 for the ankle twisting incidents involving Greg Olsen and Cam Newton, but chose not to suspend him. In Week 8, Burfict recorded seven combined tackles and suffered a knee injury during a 27–24 win against the Baltimore Ravens. On October 29, 2014, it was reported that Burfict had undergone arthroscopic surgery on his knee. He was inactive for the next six games (Weeks 9–14) and was subsequently placed on injured reserve on December 9, 2014. Burfict was limited to five games and five starts in 2014 and recorded 29 combined tackles (15 solo) and two pass deflections.
On August 20, 2014, the Cincinnati Bengals signed Burfict to a four-year, $19 million contract that included $6.90 million guaranteed and a signing bonus of $3.10 million. Head coach Marvin Lewis retained Burfict as the starting weakside linebacker in 2014. He started alongside middle linebacker Rey Maualuga and strongside linebacker Emmanuel Lamur.
On January 15, 2014, the Cincinnati Bengals announced their decision to promote linebackers coach Paul Guenther to defensive coordinator after Mike Zimmer accepted the head coaching position with the Minnesota Vikings.
On January 26, 2015, it was confirmed that Burfict had undergone microfracture surgery after issues in his knee that was surgically repaired the previous October continued to persist. On July 28, 2015, the Cincinnati Bengals placed Burfict on their physically unable to perform list. On September 5, 2015, the Cincinnati Bengals placed Burfict on their physically unable to perform list to begin the 2015 regular season. On October 31, 2015, the Cincinnati Bengals activated Burfict from their PUP list and added him to their active roster. Upon joining the active roster, Burfict was named the starting weakside linebacker, opposite strongside linebacker A. J. Hawk. Burfict and Hawk started alongside middle linebacker Rey Maualuga.
In Week 14, he collected a season-high 11 solo tackles during a 33–20 loss against the Pittsburgh Steelers. 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. On December 18, 2015, Burfict received three fines from the NFL that totaled $69,454. He received a fine for his hit on Ben Roethlisberger and received two other fines for unnecessary roughness penalties. In Week 15, Burfict made seven combined tackles, a season-high three pass deflections, and an interception during a 24–14 win at the San Francisco 49ers. On January 1, 2016, Burfict recorded a season-high 12 combined tackles (eight solo), deflected two passes, and made an interception as the Bengals defeated the Baltimore Ravens 24–16. He finished the 2015 NFL season with 74 combined tackles (57 solo), five pass deflections, two interceptions, and one sack in ten games and ten starts.
On January 11, 2016, the NFL announced their decision to suspend Burfict for the first three games of the 2016 season for repeated violations of player safety rules. Burfict served his three-game suspension (Weeks 1–3) to begin the 2016 NFL season. Upon his return, head coach Marvin Lewis named Burfict the starting weakside linebacker. He started alongside strongside linebacker Karlos Dansby and middle linebacker Rey Maualuga. On December 4, 2016, Burfict collected a season-high 15 combined tackles (ten solo), made four pass deflections, and intercepted two passes as the Bengals defeated the Philadelphia Eagles 32–14. Burfict intercepted two pass attempts by Eagles’ quarterback Carson Wentz. In Week 15, Burfict recorded nine combined tackles and broke up a pass before exiting in the second quarter of the Bengals’ 24–20 loss against the Pittsburgh Steelers due to a concussion. Burfict remained in the league's concussion protocol and was inactive for the last two games (Weeks 16–17) of the regular season. He finished the season with 101 combined tackles (73 solo), eight pass deflections, two interceptions, two sacks, one forced fumble, and one fumble recovery in 11 games and 11 starts.
On August 28, 2017, Burfict was suspended for the first five games of the 2017 regular season due to a blindside block he made on Chiefs’ fullback Anthony Sherman during the second preseason game. On August 30, 2017, Burfict appealed his suspension, which was subsequently reduced to three games. On September 7, 2017, the Cincinnati Bengals signed Burfict to a three-year, $32.53 million contract extension that includes $11.23 million guaranteed and a signing bonus of $3.30 million. Burfict started alongside starting strongside linebacker Nick Vigil and starting middle linebacker Kevin Minter.
In Week 5, he collected a season-high 13 combined tackles (ten solo), deflected a pass, and made a sack during a 20–16 win against the Buffalo Bills. On October 22, 2017, Burfict kicked Steelers’ fullback Roosevelt Nix in the face mask during the Bengals’ 29–14 loss at the Pittsburgh Steelers in Week 7. On October 27, 2017, the NFL issued Burfict a fine of $12,154 for kicking Roosevelt Nix. During Week 10 against the Tennessee Titans, Burfict's was ejected for the first time in his NFL career after he committed two personal foul penalties. The first penalty was a late hit on DeMarco Murray, and the other was unsportsmanlike conduct for bumping into an official. Burfict left by imitating a celebration taunt by Johnny Manziel. On December 4, 2017, Burfict made six combined tackles during the Bengals’ 23–20 loss against the Pittsburgh Steelers in Week 13 before being carted off the field during the fourth quarter. Burfict left the game with the concussion after a blindside block by JuJu Smith-Schuster on Monday Night Football. Smith-Schuster was penalized for unnecessary roughness and taunted Burfict by standing over him after delivering the hit. Burfict remained in concussion protocol and was sidelined for the next two games (Weeks 14–15). He was also inactive for the Bengals’ Week 17 victory at the Baltimore Ravens due to a shoulder injury. He finished the 2017 NFL season with 69 combined tackles (48 solo), two pass deflections, 1.5 sacks, and one forced fumble in ten games and ten starts.
On January 8, 2018, the Cincinnati Bengals announced their decision to hire former Detroit Lions’ defensive coordinator Teryl Austin as the new defensive coordinator after the position was left vacant by the departure of Paul Guenther to the Oakland Raiders. On March 16, 2018, Burfict received a four-game suspension for violating the leagues’ policy against performance-enhancing drugs. Upon his return from suspension, head coach Marvin Lewis named him the starting weakside linebacker. He started alongside Nick Vigil and Preston Brown.
In Week 6, Burfict delivered a hit to wide receiver Antonio Brown that unintentionally injured Bengals’ teammate Jessie Bates III and sidelined him for the remainder of their 28–21 loss against the Pittsburgh Steelers. On October 20, 2018, Burfict received a $112,000 fine for hits on Antonio Brown and James Conner that the league considered unnecessary. Burfict was inactive for two games (Weeks 8–10) due to a hip injury he sustained during a Week 7 loss at the Kansas City Chiefs. On November 13, 2018, the Cincinnati Bengals announced their decision to fire defensive coordinator Teryl Austin after they lost 51–14 to the New Orleans Saints in Week 10. Head coach Marvin Lewis stated he would take over duties as defensive coordinator for the remainder of the season.
Burfict's reputation for hard and often illegal hits dated back to his high school days. In 2019, Burfict's mother told USA Today that a number of parents frequently came up to her and asked her to her son not to hit their sons so hard. Burfict's uncle recalled that during his nephew's high school days, helmet-to-helmet hits were not frowned on as much as they were by the time Burfict made it to the NFL.
On March 18, 2019, Burfict was released by the Bengals after seven seasons.
On March 19, 2019, Burfict signed a one-year, $5 million contract with the Oakland Raiders. Burfict made his debut with the Raiders in week 1 against the Denver Broncos. In the game, Burfict made 6 tackles in the 24-16 win.