Vontaze Burfict isn’t exactly the first guy you think of when you consider team leaders.
With the Cincinnati Bengals, Burfict was fined or suspended 11 times (costing himself over $4 million) for over-the-top play, including a couple of vicious head-to-head hits on his now-teammate Antonio Brown.
But in his early days with the Oakland Raiders, Burfict is developing into a ... mentor? Apparently.
‘It keeps me sharp’
Speaking with the media after the Raiders’ first full-pads practice of training camp, the 28-year-old said he welcomes questions from younger teammates and finds it helps him, too.
“It kind of keeps me sharp on my game,” Burfict said. “You know, if you’re not talking football, if you’re not thinking football, then what are we here for? So, like a lot of guys want to watch film with me to see how much I know. At the same time I’m coaching them, I’m coaching myself. I enjoy being a leader and I want all 11 to think the same way when we’re out there so we can all play fast.”
Burfict has taken the time to watch film with rookies Clelin Ferrell and Johnathan Abrams, and fellow veteran free-agent addition Brandon Marshall has been learning too.
Same system, new city
Though he agreed to just a one-year deal with Oakland, Burfict comes in knowing the defense extremely well. The Raiders’ defensive coordinator is Paul Guenther, who was a Bengals assistant coach and coordinator for nearly the entirety of Burfict’s time in Cincinnati.
Burfict and Guenther have a strong relationship, and last year Burfict made no secret of the fact that he wanted to join Guenther in Oakland.
Marshall said: “Vontaze, people don’t really speak about his intelligence, football intelligence. He has to be one of the smartest football players I’ve played with. He’s been in this defense his whole career and he knows the ins and outs, and I come and ask him questions.”
On Monday, Burfict was happy to be in pads, which he said gave him a chance to get a better sense of his teammates.
“Getting to see where everybody’s heart is at because, obviously, with no pads, there’s different types of players,” Burfict said. “You see what type of physical players there are with pads on.”
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