The Bengals will be without linebacker Vontaze Burfict for the first three games of the 2016 season while serves a suspension for repeated violations of the league’s player safety rules.
The most recent violation came in the team’s playoff loss to the Steelers when he was flagged for a personal foul for hitting Steelers wide receiver Antonio Brown with a shot to the helmet while Brown was a defenseless receiver. Burfict said recently that he knows he has to change the way he plays to avoid further penalties and/or suspensions, but Bengals director of player personnel Duke Tobin said Thursday that the team doesn’t want too much of a change.
“He’s come out and said that that he needs to change some elements of [his game],” Tobin said, via the Cincinnati Enquirer. “But this game is about passion and passionate players are the best players in the league and so we’re not going to tell him not to be a passionate football player. That’s what he is. That’s what makes him good. Obviously there are some things that maybe at the end of the plays or some decisions he makes in a fraction of second that he’ll start to do a little differently. But he’s an important part of what we do and we’re not going to restrict him to the point where he’s ineffective.”
Keeping everything good that Burfict does for the defense while eliminating high hits would be an ideal outcome, but it may be easier said than done for him to play “passionate football” most of the time and then pull back on the throttle at the point of impact.