Bengals shoot down Vontaze Burfict trade rumors, support oft-suspended linebacker

The always controversial Vontaze Burfict is, once again, facing a suspension before the season even begins. In mid March, news of Burfict's latest ban -- this time, a four-game suspension for a PED violation -- broke, which only added more fuel to rumors that the Bengals were potentially looking to move on from their talented but troubled linebacker. 

It turns out, those rumors were unfounded. 

According to the Bengals' decision makers, they're planning on riding with Burfict for yet another season. At the NFL league meetings last week, Bengals coach Marvin Lewis, Bengals director of player personnel Duke Tobin, and Bengals vice president Troy Blackburn all shot down the notion that they're looking to move Burfict. That doesn't mean Burfict is guaranteed to be on the team's roster in Week 1 -- situations can change quickly in the NFL -- but it certainly doesn't sound like the Bengals are actively trying to shop Burfict.

"The whole trade discussion we don't get into unless there is something to actually report," Blackburn said, per The Cincinnati Enquirer's Paul Dehner Jr. "And I think unfortunately some people in different parts of the league put some stories out and we are just not going to get into that. Our focus is on having the best 2018 we can and we feel Vontaze helps us do that."

"Do we have conversations on that a lot? Sure, we have conversations on that a lot," Tobin said. "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."

When Lewis was asked if he's ever thought about moving on from Burfict, all he said was "No." 

Again, every single player's situation is fluid, and Burfict isn't exempt from that rule. If a defense-needy team really wants Burfict and offers a king's ransom for him, the Bengals would probably consider agreeing to the trade. But by the sound of it, we shouldn't expect Burfict to be playing for anyone else besides the Bengals this season.

That doesn't mean the Bengals are necessarily happy with Burfict. As Dehner Jr. pointed out in his story, the 2018 season will be the third season in a row that Burfict will begin by serving a suspension of at least three games. Tobin called the latest suspension "not ideal,"Lewis said Burfict has to "earn" the team's "trust," and Blackburn pointed out the obvious by saying, "When you are not there you are not helping the team win."

"He shouldn't hurt himself like that," Lewis said. "He hurts himself. This is the first time he's ever done anything that has hurt himself from off the field. He shouldn't do that. It's the responsibility you have as an NFL player and you have to uphold that side of it."

Burfict's been "not there" for too many games. He missed the first three games of 2017 after an illegal hit in the preseason and the first three games of 2016 after he concussed Antonio Brown with a head shot in the previous season's playoffs. The suspensions alone don't fully sum up his history of controversial moments. Hits on Maxx Williams, Martellus Bennett, LeGarrette Blount, and Le'Veon Bell have been called dirty.

But when he's been on the field, he's been one of the game's best linebackers. In 2017, he graded out as Pro Football Focus' fourth-best 4-3 outside linebacker. In 2016, PFF gave him the highest grade at his position group. In 2015, PFF ranked him sixth. 

That's why the Bengals, who are hungry for their first playoff win since 1991, don't want to move on from him. But at some point, if the suspensions continue to pile up, they could decide that his positives no longer outweigh his negatives. They just don't appear to be at that point yet.

CBS Sports Writer

Sean Wagner-McGough joined CBS Sports in 2015 after graduating from UC Berkeley. A native of Seattle, Sean now resides in the Bay Area. He spends his spare time defending Jay Cutler on Twitter. Full Bio

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