Bengals LB Vontze Burfict returns after 4-game suspension

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Bengals LB Vontze Burfict returns after 4-game suspension

CINCINNATI (AP) — Cincinnati Bengals linebacker Vontaze Burfict returned to practice this week after serving a four-game suspension for violating the NFL's performance-enhancer policy.

He's glad to be back, even doing some work with special teams. He watched his teammates pull out a 37-36 win at Atlanta last Sunday on Andy Dalton's touchdown pass to A.J. Green with 7 seconds left in regulation.

"Of course, I missed it," Burfict said before Friday's practice. "My daughter came downstairs and said, 'Daddy, we won.'"

Burfict is expected to play Sunday when the Bengals (3-1) host Miami (3-1). Cincinnati is aiming to extend its best start since winning eight straight games in 2015.

Burfict's next snap will be his first of the season. He had an ankle injury that limited him during training camp, and he sat out all four preseason games before leaving the team for a month to serve his suspension.

How much he'll play is unknown, but he has a history of piling up snaps in similar circumstances.

He was in for 36 plays against Pittsburgh in his first game in 2015 after missing six following knee surgery, 34 against the Dolphins in 2016 after missing three games following an NFL suspension for egregious hits and 52 at Cleveland last season in his first game following another three-game NFL suspension for egregious hits.

"When you get out there, you want to be competitive," said the former Arizona State player, who's preparing for his seventh NFL season. "You don't have to play every play. We've got enough good linebackers that it gives me a chance to get out for a couple of plays."

The Bengals hadn't officially activated Burfict before Friday's practice, but they hope he can shore up a defense that ranks 29th in the 32-team NFL in yards allowed and last in opponent's third-down conversions while giving up the 10th-most points in the league.

"I think we'll be all right," Burfict said. "Every game, there are always two or three plays that get messed up. Last year, the other teams wouldn't score on those plays. This year, they're scoring sometimes."

Burfict expects his biggest contribution might be his fiery personality - the same intensity that has led in the past to penalty-causing, suspension-inducing hits.

"I'm a vocal leader," he said. "I'll add my little two cents. I think that can help."

Temperatures in the mid-80s are forecast for Paul Brown Stadium, which could affect Burfict's stamina. But he believes the conditioning he maintained during the suspension will help him stay on the field. He also doesn't anticipate needing much time to adjust to first-year defensive coordinator Teryl Austin's system.

"Football's football," he said. "The playbook's the playbook. Your man is your man. His system is similar, but it's different. You've got to get used to his calling of the game. It's going to happen. It might take a couple of games."

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