|Burfict sought out Lewis who was willing to give the former Arizona St. linebacker a chance. (Getty Images)|
In the weeks leading up to last month's NFL Draft, former Ohio State tackle Mike Adams requested a face-to-face meeting with Steelers to explain his failed drug test at the combine, something that he had previously lied about. Pittsburgh wound up taking Adams in the second round, even though general manager Kevin Colbert initially told Adams he was off the team's draft board unless he was able to meet certain stipulations put forth by the organization.
We bring this up because a similar situation unfolded with the Arizona State linebacker Vontaze Burfict and the Bengals. Heading into his junior season, Burfict was considered a first or second-round pick. But a series of off-field missteps and a horrendous combine performance (that included blaming his college coaches) sealed his fate as, at best, an undrafted free agent.
So following Burfict's pro day, he sought out Bengals head coach Marvin Lewis by calling him and then writing a letter, according to the Cincinnati Enquirer's Joe Reedy.
Lewis, who met with Burfict for several hours while in Arizona last week for his daughter's wedding, compared the situation to that of linebacker Ahmad Brooks, whom the Bengals selected in the third round of the 2006 supplemental draft.
“There's no down side. What's the down side?” Lewis said. “The positives are: Get in shape. You weren't in shape your last season at Arizona State. Get rid of the selfishness in your play. Learn how to bend your knees. Let us coach you and let's see if you are what people thought you could have been. Because I have no idea who you are. And so you're starting from scratch here. …
”I struck a chord with him and maybe that's what he needs," Lewis continued. "He's got a lot of story. I don't have to believe any of it. It doesn't matter one way or another to me now. What he does now from this point forward is going to determine whether or not he can be a NFL player. I think he has some ability. When you watch the tape there are a lot of things he didn't do very well. But he does some things I can't coach that he can do."
The Bengals have a history of taking chances on at-risk players. Sometimes it works out, sometimes it doesn't.
Before the draft, NFL Network draft expert Mike Mayock was wholly unimpressed with Burfict's game film, saying during a conference call that "I put his tape on with absolutely zero preconceived notions. I watched three tapes and really didn't like him as a football player. I think he's a non-draftable kid. For me, he's a free agent."
Burfict later told Aaron Wilson of Scout.com that “If I could talk to (Mayock), I would ask him why is he being so hurtful to a young man and trying to trash me. I think about what he said with every rep that I do in the weight room. I use the criticism as motivation, but I like Mayock. I have a lot of respect for him. I would just ask him to be fair.”
Turns out, Mayock was right, Burfict wasn't drafted. But the Bengals have given him a chance and maybe that's all he needs.
“We will continue to get him in shape," Lewis told Reedy. "He's a better conditioned athlete now than he was at the combine and at ASU in March. If he continues to go down that path, he seems bright enough to learn. He seems willing to want change this image people have of him.”
For more NFL news, rumors and analysis, follow @EyeOnNFL on Twitter, like us on Facebook, and subscribe to our Pick-6 Podcast and NFL newsletter. You can follow Ryan Wilson on Twitter here: @ryanwilson_07.