Burfict Says He’s Misunderstood

ILB Vontaze Burfict met with the Ravens and would love to learn from Ray Lewis.

Posted by Ryan Mink on Sunday, February 26th, 2012 at 1:42 pm | Categories: 2012 Scouting Combine, Ryan Mink

Vontaze Burfict has been getting hammered by draft analysts.

But the Arizona State inside linebacker says he’s misunderstood.

Burfict said he had a good interview with the Ravens Saturday night. On Sunday, he faced the media to try to clear his name and halt his sliding stock.

“I just want to let the press know that I’m not the guy everybody assumes I am,” said Burfict, who called himself the best linebacker in the draft.

“It’s the wrong picture that you guys have. … I’m a soft-spoken guy, shy sometimes. But when I’m on the field, I just hate to lose.”

In early mock drafts, Burfict was frequently linked to the Ravens at pick No. 29 as a potential heir to Ray Lewis. But he has been bumped in many predictions to a second or even possibly third-round prospect.

There are maturity questions after he was flagged for numerous unsportsmanlike conduct penalties in his junior year. There was also an alleged locker room fight with a teammate.

Beyond that, Burfict’s skills on the field have also been questioned. Pundits have suggested that he’s merely a highlight-reel hitter.

There’s a belief that a veteran locker room, such as the one in Baltimore, could help Burfict mature and reach his potential. While the Arizona State product said he didn’t feel he needed that, he would love to learn from his idol Lewis.

“That’s awesome,” Burfict said of the thought of being taken by Baltimore and playing with Lewis.

“I feel like he’s my role model. I really think I could take my game to the next level, especially learning from him.”

Burfict specifically felt Lewis could help him in the film room and with running to the ball at full speed.

“I watched him and he never takes plays off. I could learn a lot from him,” he said.

Burfict said the Ravens asked him some tough questions. He said he answered them straight up and addressed certain notions like not being coachable.

The 6-foot-3, 248-pound linebacker’s production slipped in his junior season. After logging 90 tackles in 2010, he had just 69 in 2011. He did add five sacks and one interception, however.

Burfict, who said he was overweight, thought he played “average.”

“I could have played better,” he said. “The coaches kind of messed me up. I didn’t know if I was going to start again, I didn’t know if I was going to get benched. It hurt me at times, but I tried to fight through it.”

Then there were the penalties. In 2010, he was benched by Head Coach Dennis Erickson after head-butting an Oregon State quarterback. Later that year, back-to-back personal foul penalties, including one for arguing with referees, played a major part in a 17-13 loss to Stanford.

To that, Burfict agreed with a reporter’s notion that he could have been a marked man by officials.

“It was that and I was aggressive at times,” he said. “I just led with the head and hate to lose.”

And the locker-room fight? Burfict said a wide receiver started it when he hit him during a non-contact 7-on-7 drill.

“He started roughhousing me and pushed me, and my first instinct was to swing on him,” Burfict said. “Everybody thinks I’m a bad guy because my instincts were to swing on a guy.”

Burfict acknowledged that there’s more room to mature. He said that will come along with time.

He’s been working with Buffalo Bills inside linebacker Nick Barnett, who shares the same agent, in the meantime. Burfict said he’s focusing on what he can do in the locker room and off the field.

“I know this is a business now and there are things you cannot do in a business,” he said.

There’s no doubt Burfict has skills, passion, size and intriguing athleticism, which makes him a possible steal if he falls.

The Ravens took a chance on a player with maturity questions last year in cornerback Jimmy Smith, who didn’t have any issues during his rookie season and grew into a promising weapon.

Burfict was asked if teams would be taking a risk on him if they selected him this April.

“No, sir,” he said. “I think I’ll come and change the whole atmosphere. I’m a leader and I’ll bring aggression to the game and the whole side of the defense.”

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