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Vontaze Burfict now a starter for the Bengals

Vontaze Burfict

Cincinnati Bengals linebacker Vonaze Burfict works a drill during NFL football rookie minicamp at Paul Brown Stadium, Friday, May, 11, 2012, in Cincinnati. (AP Photo/Tony Tribble)


It’s only the second game of his career, but it’s starting to look like the Bengals were right and the rest of the league was wrong about Vontaze Burfict.

The Bengals will have Burfict as their starting weakside linebacker for today’s game against the Browns, ESPN’s Adam Schefter reports.

Burfict didn’t get any snaps on defense in Week One, but he played 19 plays on special teams, and after starting weakside linebacker Thomas Howard went down with a torn ACL in practice this week, the Bengals decided the Burfict would be the next man up.

Burfict’s elevation to the starting lineup came sooner than the Bengals would have liked, but it’s a testament to how hard he has worked since the Bengals signed him as an undrafted free agent: From all indications he has lost weight, gotten into better shape and quickly learned the Bengals’ defense.

At the start of the 2011 college football season, Burfict was widely viewed as one of the top linebackers in the country. But he had a bad year on the field and gained a reputation as a trouble maker off the field, and he fell all the way out of the draft. Now he has completed an impressive turnaround, all the way into an NFL starting lineup.