Burfict admits past marijuana use to teams

Arizona State junior middle linebacker Vontaze Burfict didn't confirm nor deny a report that he tested positive for drugs at the NFL scouting combine.

Burfict said that he hasn't been notified by league officials about a positive drug test, which was first reported by FOXSports.com.

"Nobody told me anything from the NFL," Burfict said. "I don't want to talk about it too much."

But the 21-year-old did acknowledge in a telephone interview Wednesday that he informed NFL general managers during combine interviews that he has smoked marijuana in the past.

"I talked to some teams, and I told them I had smoked marijuana before," Burfict told Scout.com. "It's not like I'm the only person that has ever done that."

When asked if he still smokes marijuana, Burfict replied: "No, of course not. I don't smoke anymore."

This is the latest hit to Burfict's draft stock following a disastrous performance at the combine on the heels of a rough junior season.

An All-American as a sophomore, Burfict wasn't even an all-conference selection last season. He finished his career with a total of 16 personal fouls, displaying a lack of discipline on the field.

Burfict's production dipped to 69 tackles last season with five sacks and one interception after leading the team with 90 tackles as a sophomore to emerge as the Sun Devils' first defensive All-American since Baltimore Ravens Pro Bowl outside linebacker Terrell Suggs.

He ran a sluggish 40-yard dash at the combine in February and reportedly struggled during interviews, something he says he wished he had handled better during a generally overwhelming experience.

Burfict emphasized that he has turned things around since the combine and is eager to prove himself on and off the field. He also said he's down to 243 pounds after playing at roughly 260 pounds last season.

"What I've learned is that I'm a hard worker and I'm determined to finish what I started," said Burfict, whose recent workout regimen has included pushing cars and blocking sleds in addition to running and lifting weights. "My body has changed a lot over these last three months. I almost have a six-pack now. The team that drafts me will see that my work ethic isn't questionable at all. I realize how much I really want this for my life. If I could have changed anything when I was in college, I would have been eating healthier. Now, I'm eating fish, chicken, broccoli. My endurance is much better. I usually run a mile each morning.

"The team that picks me is going to get a leader on and off the field. I'm going to be a role model for the kids in the community. If teams pass on me, they're going to have to face me for the next 10 years. If they don't want me, they're going to miss out. I definitely feel like my best football is ahead of me."

Burfict emphasized that his personality away from football is much different from his edgy style on the field.

"I feel misunderstood because of my play on the field," Burfict said. "There have been rumors that I have off-the-field issues, but I've never been arrested. I have no off-the-field issues. I'm a stay-at-home guy. I like to hang out with my girlfriend, stay home and cook and play video games."

NFL Network draft analyst Mike Mayock has been critical of Burfict throughout the draft process, predicting recently that he might not even get drafted.

"That's his job," Burfict said. "He has to have something to talk about. Mike Mayock doesn't know me, he's never interviewed me. I have a lot of respect for Mayock. I don't know why he has no respect for me. I'm a human being. I'm not letting it get to me.

"If I could talk to him, I would ask him why is he being so hurtful to a young man and trying to trash me. I think about what he said with every rep that I do in the weight room. I use the criticism as motivation, but I like Mayock. I have a lot of respect for him. I would just ask him to be fair."

Burfict said he's aware that he'll have to make adjustments to his game as he transitions to the NFL, particularly in terms of his temperament on the field to try to avoid racking up penalties.

"I don't want to mess anything up for my coaches and teammates, so I have to play a little bit smarter," Burfict said. "I don't want to tone down my aggressiveness, but I have to watch what I do. If I see a receiver catching a ball, I can't hit him head-first. That's a penalty.

"In college, I was trying to take the guy's head off and the refs would throw a flag. I have to be much smarter now. This is business."

Burfict is being mentored by Buffalo Bills linebacker Nick Barnett.

"He's helped me on and off the field," Burfict said. "He's told me things that have helped me grow as a man."

Burfict had a rough upbringing in Los Angeles. His mother, Lisa Williams, and father, Vontaze DeLeon Burfict, were both once in gangs. His father has served time for possession of cocaine with intent to sell and hasn't been a part of Burfict's life.

Burfict's mother got away from the gang lifestyle and moved the family to Corona, Calif. Williams now works as a city transit bus driver, raising Burfict as a single mother before later getting remarried.

Burfict has one brother and two sisters.

"My mom set a great example for me, she worked so hard for us," Burfict said. "If she hadn't moved us out of the city, I think I would have been a troublemaker, a gang member. She moved us to the suburbs where I didn't have any idea about gangs. I never had to experience Bloods and Crips, red or blue. My brother and I were more into sports. There was nothing else for us to do."

Burfict said he spoke with Ravens All-Pro middle linebacker Ray Lewis during his sophomore year, getting some advice from the two-time NFL Defensive Player of the Year about football and life.

"I watched him growing up and he's my role model," Burfict said. "I want to pattern my game after him. He gave me some encouraging words. He told me to keep working and about things I'll be looking for in the future. He told me it's a long process to get to the NFL."

Burfict said he has no preference at this point for where he'll play in the NFL.

He's just looking for an opportunity.

"I don't care where I get drafted because God will place me somewhere great," Burfict said. "Wherever I go, I will cherish it and play my hardest. I will be grateful for the opportunity and make the best of it. I can't wait for that to happen."

For more coverage of the NFL, go to profootball.scout.com. Follow me on Twitter: @RavensInsider

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