With the NFL draft starting in six days, Vontaze Burfict knows he needs to change perceptions about him.
Burfict, the former Arizona State linebacker who struggled at the Combine, bombed his Pro Day, wasn’t invited to visit any teams and was described as “non-draftable,” has given an interview to Sports Illustrated in which he insists he has what it takes to be a tremendous NFL player.
“Whoever picks me in the draft,” Burfict said, “is going to have a great middle linebacker.”
The Sports Illustrated story about Burfict opens with the news that he was spending the day in Las Vegas, and frankly, it wasn’t very smart of Burfict and whoever is advising him these days to have him conduct his interview from a Las Vegas hotel room. There’s nothing wrong with a guy taking a vacation in Las Vegas, but if Burfict is giving interviews in an attempt to change public perceptions about him, he ought to allow some reporters to come join him when he’s busting his butt in the gym, not calling reporters up in between playing blackjack and walking the Strip.
The criticisms of Burfict include his slow 40 times and his hot temper. Burfict says that while it’s true he has some anger issues, he thinks he’s misunderstood.
“[P]eople think I have a bad attitude because of the personal fouls on the field, or I ran a slow 40 at the Combine,” he said. “I’m just real competitive, and I hate to lose. Because of the position I play … you have to have some emotions running through your head. When I’m on the field, I play with anger and aggression; just want to hit somebody. Certain people think, He’s probably like that off the field. I’ve never been arrested, never been pulled over for anything. I wish that all 32 teams could just chill with me for a day and see what kind of person I am off the field. I’m soft-spoken and shy. I’m a laid-back guy.”
It’s too late for Burfict to chill with an NFL team before the draft. But it’s not too late for him to prove that he can be a great middle linebacker. Probably by catching on somewhere as an undrafted free agent.