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Vontaze Burfict out to show Bengals that he belongs

Thirty-two NFL teams passed on Vontaze Burfict in the NFL draft. His first chance to prove 31 of them wrong comes Friday night, when the Cincinnati Bengals host the New York Jets.

Bengals coach Marvin Lewis signed Burfict in April and the team has been pleased with his athleticism, but that was never in question. They're also pleasantly surprised by his patience and even-keeled approach to learning the pro game, which was very much in doubt after a string of troubling incidents at Arizona State scared front offices away.

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Lewis told Joe Reedy of The Cincinnati Enquirer that Burfict is off to a strong start, while defender Rey Maualuga believes the rookie has learned the middle linebacker spot faster than he did last season. Burfict sits behind Maualuga and Roddrick Muckelroy on the depth chart and is no lock to make the team.

"You can't get too excited," Burfict told the newspaper. "You don't want your emotions to take control. I'm just going to go out and do what I have to do and take care of what the coaches tell me to do."

The Bengals figure to keep seven linebackers this season, leaving Burfict to fight for that final spot with Emmanuel Lamur, according to The Enquirer. The decision could come down to his play on special teams and -- in Burfict's case -- belief from coaches that he's mature enough to endure the rigors of an NFL season.

For Marvin Lewis, Burfict is a win-win. The Bengals didn't burn a draft pick here, but they grabbed a player who was coveted before teams got the jitters. We'll keep an eye on Burfict's play tonight.

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