INDIANAPOLIS — Here in the NFL Scouting Combine press room, high-profile prospects are brought to the podium to speak. Lesser-known players are dropped at smaller tables, set up for more intimate Q&As, so it was curious to see Vontaze Burfict relegated to distant Table 4.
After all, the Arizona State linebacker is one of the more intriguing prospects, an explosive hitter and the type of player some have tagged as a good fit for the Ravens’ defense, among others.
The Butkus Award semifinalist is known for his jarring style of play but also for a lack of discipline that has cost his team on and off the field. Burfict didn’t sound preoccupied with that line of criticism, telling reporters Sunday: “I’m the best linebacker in this draft.”
He described his play last season as simply “average” and not up to what he plans to do in the NFL.
“The coaches kind of messed me up, like, I didn’t know if I was going to start a game, I didn’t know if I was going to be benched,” he said. “So, it hurt me at times, but I tried to fight through it.”
Burfict made the wrong type of headlines in 2011 for a locker-room scuffle with teammate Kevin Ozier, a wide receiver. Burfict explained the situation in detail, saying Ozier played rough during non-contact drills, which led to the showdown.
“He hit me (during drills), and we had a little argument,” Burfict said. “We started chatting about it (in the locker room). We started, you know, rough housing. He pushed me, and my first instinct was to swing, and everybody thinks I’m a bad guy because my instinct was to swing.
“I learned from it,” Burfict later said. “… I’m a soft-spoken guy. Shy sometimes. But when I’m on the field, I just hate to lose.”
— Marc Sessler