|Burfict's head coach believes he has a future as an NFL starter. (US Presswire)|
One byproduct of the sprained right knee suffered last week by Bengals linebacker Rey Maualuga -- he was one of three Cincinnati starters to get hurt in the first five minutes of the Jets preseason game -- is that the team now gets to watch one of the most-discussed undrafted free agent rookies practice with the No. 1 defensive group.
“Oh, yeah. Unquestionably,” Bengals coach Marvin Lewis said when asked by ESPN.com if Burfict was a future NFL starter.
"He's done very well," Lewis said last week. "He's why he was a top high school recruit. He's got all of those abilities."
The problem, of course, was Burfict's final year in college.
He had a number of character issues entering the 2012 draft (including the report that he failed a drug test at Februrary's NFL combine and the fact that he blamed his coaches for his subpar performance at Arizona State last year), and though he was once considered a potential second-round pick, his stock fell so far that his name wasn't called at Radio City Music Hall.
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In fact, people seemed so disappointed in Burdick that we openly discussed his Arena Football League options.
“You took a talented football player -- when he started college there, he was a highly recruited kid -- and he slowly regressed into this player that started to get cheap fouls and cheap penalties, and a player who had a horrible Combine workout," an AFC scouting coordinator told Sports Illustrated before the draft. "Not only the workout but the interview portion of the Combine. This is a guy who probably went from a second-round pick to no telling where he's going to fall."
In fact, in order to get a job, Burfict had to seek out coach Marvin Lewis and convince him that he would be a good free agent signing.
And now? Well, now Lewis thinks of him as a potential starter. Not a bad turnaround in only four months.
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