Vontaze Burfict
refer to caption
Burfict with the Cincinnati Bengals in 2015
No. 55
Personal information
Born: (1990-09-24) September 24, 1990 (age 31)
Los Angeles, California
Height:6 ft 1 in (1.85 m)
Weight:255 lb (116 kg)
Career information
High school:Corona (CA) Centennial
College:Arizona State
Career history
Career highlights and awards
Career NFL statistics
Total tackles:622
Forced fumbles:4
Fumble recoveries:5
Defensive touchdowns:1
Player stats at NFL.com · PFR

Vontaze DeLeon Burfict Jr. (/ˈvɒntɛz ˈbɜːrfɪkt/ VON-tez BUR-fikt;[1] born September 24, 1990) is a former American football linebacker who played in the National Football League (NFL) for eight seasons, most prominently with the Cincinnati Bengals. An All-American at Arizona State, Burfict was a projected first-round pick in the 2012 NFL Draft,[2][3][4] until an unimpressive NFL Combine performance and character concerns led to him not being selected. He was subsequently signed as an undrafted free agent by Bengals,[5] whom he was a member of for seven seasons.

Burfict led Cincinnati in tackles during his rookie season[6] and earned Pro Bowl honors in 2013. Despite his production, Burfict also incited controversy throughout his career for frequently violating player safety rules,[7][8] which caused him to be suspended for 22 games and accumulate over $5.3 million in fines and forfeited salary.[9] He missed nearly the entirety of his final season with the Oakland Raiders after being suspended for a personal foul.

High school career

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.[10] 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.[11]

As a junior, Burfict collected a team-high 130 tackles and added four sacks, two interceptions, and one fumble recovery. He helped anchor a linebacker unit that included fellow Sun Devils Shelly Lyons and Brandon Magee. Corona Centennial finished the 2007 season as No. 24 on USA Today‘s Top 25.[12]

Burfict missed almost all of his sophomore season due to academic problems.[13]

He played in the 2009 U.S. Army All-American Bowl. Considered a five-star recruit by Rivals.com and Scout.com, Burfict was listed as the No. 1 inside linebacker prospect in the nation.[14][15]

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 tell 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.[16]

US college sports recruiting information for high school athletes
Name Hometown High school / college Height Weight 40 Commit date
Vontaze Burfict
Corona, California Centennial High School (CA) 6 ft 2 in (1.88 m) 245 lb (111 kg) 4.6 Feb 4, 2009 
Recruiting star ratings: Scout:
5/5 stars
5/5 stars
   247SportsN/A    ESPN grade: 85
Overall recruiting rankings: Scout: 1 (MLB)   Rivals: 1 (ILB), 2 (CA)  ESPN: 1 (LB)
  • Note: In many cases, Scout, Rivals, 247Sports, and ESPN may conflict in their listings of height and weight.
  • In these cases, the average was taken. ESPN grades are on a 100-point scale.


  • "Arizona State Football Commitments". Rivals.com. Retrieved March 17, 2012.
  • "2009 Arizona State Football Commits". Scout.com. Retrieved March 17, 2012.
  • "ESPN". ESPN.com. Retrieved March 17, 2012.
  • "Scout.com Team Recruiting Rankings". Scout.com. Retrieved March 17, 2012.
  • "2009 Team Ranking". Rivals.com. Retrieved March 17, 2012.

College career

Burfict (left) pointing at USC Trojans quarterback Matt Barkley in 2011
Burfict (left) pointing at USC Trojans quarterback Matt Barkley in 2011

Burfict originally committed to USC, but eventually switched to Arizona State on National Signing Day.[17] He joined ASU's 2009 class that included three of his high school teammates.[18] 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.[19] Sun Devils coach Dennis Erickson, who compared Burfict to Ray Lewis,[20] expected him to be academically eligible for enrollment.[21] Burfict did qualify on time for the 2009 football season.

By midseason, Burfict ranked second in the team with 30 tackles despite starting only three of six games, and had five tackles for a loss, two sacks, and three pass break-ups. ESPN named him Arizona State's midseason defensive MVP.[22] In a road game against Georgia on September 26, Burfict collected a season-high 11 tackles (three solo) and one and half tackles for loss. He led the Sun Devils in tackles in five games over the course of the season. By the end of the year, he had collected 69 tackles, seven tackles for loss, and a pair of sacks, and was named a Freshman All-American by College Football News,[23] and by the Football Writers Association of America.[24] He was also honored as the Pacific-10 Conference Defensive Freshman of the Year.

At the start of his sophomore season, Burfict was named First-Team Preseason All-American by The Sporting News. He was also named to the watchlists of the 2010 Lombardi Award and the Bronko Nagurski Trophy.[25]

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.[26] 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.[27] Two plays later, Stanford scored what turned out to be the winning touchdown.[28]

Burfict finished the 2010 season with a team leading 90 tackles, 8.5 for a loss, and two forced fumbles. The Sporting News selected him to their All-American team, as well as Pacific-10 Defensive MVP.[29] Burfict is ASU's first 1st team All-American since Terrell Suggs.

With senior cornerback Omar Bolden out for the season to a knee injury, Burfict was expected to take over as the leader of the Sun Devils defense in 2011,[30][31] 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.[32]

Professional career

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.[2][3][4] Problems on and off the field at Arizona State, however, caused his draft stock to plummet. 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."[33][34] 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.

External video
video icon Vontaze Burfict’s NFL Combine Workout

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.[35][36] 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”.[37] 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.[38] Burfict later stated during an interview with Scout.com that he admitted using marijuana to NFL general managers.[39] At the conclusion of the pre-draft process, Burfict was projected to be a seventh round pick by NFL draft experts and scouts.[40] 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.[41][42]

Pre-draft measurables
Height Weight Arm length Hand span 40-yard dash 10-yard split 20-yard split 20-yard shuttle Three-cone drill Vertical jump Broad jump Bench press
6 ft 1+38 in
(1.86 m)
248 lb
(112 kg)
31+14 in
(0.79 m)
9+34 in
(0.25 m)
5.09 s 1.78 s 2.96 s 4.56 s 7.51 s 30 in
(0.76 m)
8 ft 8 in
(2.64 m)
16 reps
All values from NFL CombineArizona State’s Pro Day[42][43]

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.[44][45]

Cincinnati Bengals

2012 season

Burfict at Bengals training camp in 2012
Burfict at Bengals training camp in 2012

Throughout training camp, Burfict competed for a roster spot as a backup middle linebacker against veteran Roddrick Muckelroy. Head coach Marvin Lewis named Burfict the backup middle linebacker, behind Rey Maualuga, to begin the regular season.[46]

He made his professional regular season debut in the Cincinnati Bengals’ season-opening 13–44 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.[47] He recorded seven combined tackles during the Bengals’ 38–31 win at the Washington Redskins in Week 2. In Week 3, Burfict made eight solo tackles, broke up a pass, and made his first career sack during a 27–10 win at the Jacksonville Jaguars. Burfict sacked Jaguars’ quarterback Blaine Gabbert for an 11-yard loss in the fourth quarter.[48] On December 30, 2012, Burfict collected a season-high 18 combined tackles (ten solo) as the Bengals defeated the Baltimore Ravens 23–17.[49] 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.[50] 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.[6]

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’ 13–19 loss at the Houston Texans in the AFC Wildcard Game.

2013 season

Burfict entered training camp slated as the starting weakside linebacker under defensive coordinator Mike Zimmer. Head coach Marvin Lewis named Burfict and James Harrison the starting outside linebackers to begin the regular season, along with middle linebacker Rey Maualuga.[51]

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 21–24 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.[52] 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.[53] He was fined for a hit on a defenseless receiver (James Jones) and intentionally struck an opponent in the groin (Ryan Taylor).[54] 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.[55] 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.[56] 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.[50] Burfict led all players in tackles in 2013 and also topped the NFL’s "Performance-Based Pay" program list with $299,465 in earnings that year.[57]

The Cincinnati Bengals finished first in the AFC North with an 11–5 record in 2013 and clinched a wild card spot. During the AFC Wild Card round, Burfict made seven combined tackles and was credited with half a sack as the Bengals lost 10–27 against the San Diego Chargers.[58]

2014 season

Burfict at 2014 Bengals training camp
Burfict at 2014 Bengals training camp

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.[59]

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.[45][60] Head coach Marvin Lewis retained Burfict as the starting linebacker in 2014 alongside Rey Maualuga and Emmanuel Lamur.[61]

Burfict sustained a concussion while sacking Ravens’ quarterback Joe Flacco during the Bengals’ season-opening 23–16 victory at the Baltimore Ravens. In Week 2, 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).[62][63] During Week 6 against the Carolina Panthers, Burfict collected a season-high ten combined tackles (seven solo) as the game ended in a 37–37 tie. 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.[64] On October 15, 2014, the NFL fined Burfict $25,000 for the ankle twisting incidents involving Olsen and Newton.[65][66] 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.[67] He was inactive for the next six games (Weeks 9–14) and was subsequently placed on injured reserve on December 9, 2014.[68] Burfict was limited to five games and five starts in 2014 and recorded 29 combined tackles (15 solo) and two pass deflections.[50]

2015 season

On January 26, 2015, it was revealed that Burfict had undergone microfracture surgery after issues in his knee that was surgically repaired the previous October continued to persist.[69][70] On July 28, 2015, the Cincinnati Bengals placed Burfict on their physically unable to perform list.[71] On September 5, 2015, the Cincinnati Bengals placed Burfict on their physically unable to perform list to begin the 2015 regular season.[72] On October 31, 2015, the Cincinnati Bengals activated Burfict from their PUP list and added him to their active roster.[73] Upon joining the active roster, Burfict was named the starting linebacker along with A. J. Hawk and Rey Maualuga.

In Week 14, he collected a season-high 11 solo tackles during a 20–33 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.[74] 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.[75][76] 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.[50]

The Cincinnati Bengals finished first in the AFC North with a 12–4 record and clinched the AFC North. During the AFC Wild Card round against the Pittsburgh Steelers in Cincinnati, Burfict recorded six combined tackles, one deflected pass, one interception, and one sack. However, Burfict also committed a critical penalty for unnecessary roughness with 18 seconds left in the fourth quarter when the Bengals were leading Pittsburgh 16–15. His penalty was for a hit he delivered with his shoulder to the head of wide receiver Antonio Brown. Brown was considered a defenseless receiver as he was attempting to make a reception and was subsequently knocked unconscious and exited the game with a concussion. Bengals’ cornerback Adam Jones subsequently received an unsportsmanlike conduct penalty, which advanced the line of scrimmage 30-yards and allowed the Steelers to kick a go-ahead 35-yard field goal to win the game 18-16.[77]

2016 season

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.[78] 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 linebacker along with Karlos Dansby and Rey Maualuga.[79][80] 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.[81] In Week 15, Burfict recorded nine combined tackles and broke up a pass before exiting in the second quarter of the Bengals’ 20–24 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.[82] 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.[50]

2017 season

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.[83] On August 30, 2017, Burfict appealed, which reduced the suspension to three games.[84] On September 7, 2017, the Cincinnati Bengals signed Burfict to a three-year, $32.53 million contract extension that included $11.23 million guaranteed and a signing bonus of $3.30 million.[45][85] Burfict started at linebacker alongside Nick Vigil and 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’ 14–29 loss at the Pittsburgh Steelers in Week 7.[86][87] On October 27, 2017, Burfict was fined $12,154 for kicking Nix.[88] 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 one was unsportsmanlike conduct for bumping into an official. Burfict left the set by imitating a celebration taunt by Johnny Manziel.[89][90][91] On December 4, 2017, Burfict made six combined tackles during the Bengals’ 20–23 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.[92] Burfict remained in concussion protocol and was sidelined for the next two games (Weeks 14–15).[93] He was also inactive for the Bengals’ Week 17 victory at the Baltimore Ravens due to a shoulder injury.[94] 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.[50]

2018 season

On January 8, 2018, the Cincinnati Bengals announced their decision to hire Teryl Austin as the new defensive coordinator, who was previously the defensive coordinator for the Detroit Lions. The position was left vacant after the departure of Paul Guenther, who was hired by the Oakland Raiders.[95] On March 16, 2018, Burfict received a four-game suspension for violating the leagues’ policy against performance-enhancing drugs.[96][97] Upon his return from suspension, head coach Marvin Lewis named him the starting linebacker 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 and sidelined him for the remainder of their 28–21 loss against the Pittsburgh Steelers. On October 20, 2018, Burfict was fined $112,000 for hits on Antonio Brown and James Conner that the league considered unnecessary.[98] 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.[99] On March 18, 2019, Burfict was released by the Bengals after seven seasons.[100]

Oakland Raiders

2019 season

On March 19, 2019, Burfict signed a one-year, $5 million contract with the Oakland Raiders.[101] 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.[102]

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.[103] 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.[104] Burfict appealed his suspension, but on October 9, the suspension was upheld. Three days earlier, on October 6, the NFL notified Burfict that it discovered 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.[105] He was reinstated on December 30, 2019.[106] Since then, Burfict indicated his intent to continue playing in the NFL; he became a free agent in 2020 at the conclusion of his one-year contract with the Raiders and has not declared that he is retired.[107]

NFL career statistics

Year Team Games Tackles Interceptions Fumbles
GP GS Comb Solo Ast Sck PD Int Yds Avg Lng TD FF FR
2012 CIN 16 14 127 73 54 1.0 2 2
2013 CIN 16 16 171 114 57 3.0 6 1 12 12.0 12 1 2
2014 CIN 5 5 29 15 14 2 1 1
2015 CIN 10 10 74 57 17 1.0 5 2 16 8.0 16
2016 CIN 11 11 101 73 28 2.0 8 2 54 27.0 47 1
2017 CIN 10 10 69 48 21 1.5 2 1
2018 CIN 7 7 33 16 17 3
2019 OAK 4 4 18 11 7 1
Total 79 77 622 407 215 8.5 29 5 82 15.7 47 4 5

Personal life

Burfict was born in South Los Angeles. His father, a gang member and convicted cocaine dealer, was incarcerated most of the time and never had a relationship with his son.[108] His mother, a city transit bus driver, initially raised Burfict and his older half-brother DaShan Miller (b. 1986) on her own, but eventually remarried and moved to Corona.[108][109] Like Burfict, Miller was a football player at Corona Centennial High School, and later played college football at UTEP and Akron.[109] Miller was eligible for the 2010 NFL Draft, but he went undrafted.

Legal issues

On December 5, 2020, it was revealed that Burfict was arrested for misdemeanor battery in Las Vegas, Nevada. He was released from a jail on a $1,000 bond.[110]


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