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Haslett: Vontaze Burfict one of top linebackers in NFL

Bengals linebacker Vontaze Burfict will be remembered all offseason for his role in last week's unforgettable playoff loss to the Steelers, but his new position coach sees something else.

"He's got great instincts. I understand he's very, very smart," said Bengals aide Jim Haslett, per the team's official website. "He's very powerful. He's one of the best tacklers I've seen in a long time. Just watching tape and not having met him yet, he's one of the top linebackers in the National Football League."

Burfict's vicious hit on Pittsburgh wideout Antonio Brown helped trigger Cincy's late-game meltdown against Pittsburgh, while earning the fourth-year pro a three-game suspension to start next season. Haslett sounds more than willing to work around that inconvenience.

"The stuff off the field, I think that comes with age. He'll grow out of some of those things," Haslett said of Burfict. "... I know things get blown up. From what I've seen on the field, he's dynamic and I really like him. He's smart, instinctive and a heck of a player. I hope I can do whatever I can to help him out and make him better."

Burfict won't be available until Week 4, but it's crystal clear that Haslett and the Bengals value their hard-hitting defender. Talented players get plenty of rope, meaning Burfict will remain in Cincy as a defensive centerpiece deep into the future.

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