If nothing else, the latest Vontaze Burfict suspension isn’t a total surprise to the Bengals, as they’re accustomed to being without him.
The linebacker has missed 29 of a possible 66 games the last four years because of suspensions and injuries, so the four he’ll miss at the start of the season because of a PED violation is just another log on an already blazing fire (it will be the third straight season he’s missed at least the first three games).
“It’s not ideal,” Bengals director of player personnel Duke Tobin said, via Pau Dehner of the Cincinnati Enquirer. “The situation he has put us in is not ideal. We are a player-oriented business. Players that can make a difference are important and we recognize that. The more he’s not available to us the more it hurts us. . . .
“Do we have conversations on that a lot? Sure, we have conversations on that a lot. But at the end of the day we are a player-oriented business and the players are the ones that win or lose for us. We try to collect as many players that can help us win. That’s our job. That’s what we do. That’s our responsibility as an organization. To try to put the best football team on the field that we possibly can. It’s not ideal when a guy is not available to us and we recognize that, but our over-riding thought is how to field the best football team we can possibly field.”
The Bengals could easily use his lack of availability as justification to build around a more reliable player, but have been unwilling to do that. Coach Marvin Lewis has supported/enabled Burfict for years, and the backing he enjoys goes to the top of the organization.
“Our focus is on having the best 2018 we can and we feel Vontaze helps us do that, . . .” Bengals vice president Troy Blackburn said. “Vontaze is well-liked and respected in the locker room. The players know that a) he’s a special player and b) he’s a really smart football player. I don’t think there is going to be a negative that way. The negative is going to be lost time. When you are not there you are not helping the team win.”
And yet, they continue to prop him up, hoping his play when eligible is enough to make a difference.