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Bengals LB Vontaze Burfict Piling Up Tackles Since His Return To The Field

Not too long ago, defensive coordinator Paul Guenther advised the Bengals that the full fury of Tez's come back was about to be unleashed, and he was right.

The Bengals have been meting out playing time to linebacker Vontaze Burfict, and carefully monitoring his return from the injured list. The fourth-year veteran has been getting stronger with each passing game, with no setbacks, prompting coaches to oblige him with even more playing time.

Defensive coordinator Paul Guenther recently told coach Marvin Lewis that flashes of Burficts' old self were emerging following the linebacker's mid-season return from January micro-fracture knee surgery.

The procedure corrected issues that began with Burfict's November 2014 injury. When the Pro Bowl 'backer made his comeback last month, he did so after being out a full year.

Since his return, he has totaled 30 tackles, the most on the team in the five games since he came back to the fold. He has ranked first or second on the team in tackles in three of his five games, and was third in another. He's had at least seven tackles three games in a row with a season-high eight at Arizona, bookended by seven each against St. Louis and Houston

Burfict had 29 tackles in six games before his injury in 2014. He had team-leading totals of 127 (7.9 per-game average) his rookie season of 2012 and a whopping 171 (10.6) in 2013.

"Paul told us earlier that he sees Vontaze having flashes of being in shape and looking like the guy you’d expect to see," Lewis said. "We’ve extended his play each and every week. He continues to feel good and he makes a difference."

The energy that Burfict has brought to the defense also has been reflected in team numbers. The Bengals are giving up 14.2 points per game since his return against Pittsburgh, a 16-10 Bengals victory. And that's without Burfict at full throttle. Cincinnati was giving up 20.3 points per game before Tez came back.

"If we had to, we would, but we’re blessed to not have to put him out there all the time at this point while he makes his way back,” Lewis said of the temptation to play his standout even more than he has.

"He runs around and does a good job in getting in the right stops," said the coach. "If he’s ever off a bit, he’s so easy to correct. That’s such a key for him. But, understanding the ins and outs of everything, he’s excellent in that way."

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