Vontaze Burfict (55) has a big appointment in Cleveland.
Sunday's game against the Browns (1 p.m.-Cincinnati's Channel 12) is a big one for Vontaze Burfict for a variety of reasons. For one thing, the winless Bengals need it badly. For another it's Burfict's first game of the season after serving the NFL's three-game suspension. For yet another, Burfict knows the game means something to Bengals president Mike Brown and Brown means something to Burfict.
"I respect him. I love the guy. He's a guy you can look up to," said Burfict after Thursday's practice.
Brown has been known every now and again to offer rides in his golf cart when he heads out to practice and on Thursday Burfict got a ride. Ever since Brown came down the hall three years ago to shake his hand and talk after he signed a three-year extension, they've had a relationship and that's why he wanted to get something for him on his birthday back on Aug. 10 when Brown turned 82.
"My lady told me, 'It's Mr. Brown's birthday in a few days,' and I was thinking about a painting but when I asked around they said somebody gave him one a couple of years ago," Burfict said. "I was thinking, 'Damn, we can't give him that.' Then we were thinking about some jewelry, but we couldn't get it to him on time. I wanted to have it on his birthday. So I got him a cake. Obviously we'll get something better next year. It will be a surprise. But it was from the heart from me and my lady.
"He does everything that you want an owner to do," Burfict said. "He takes care of the players, he takes care of everything that we need, so I figured I'd give him something for his birthday."
The next week Burfict received one of those Brown's specialties. A handwritten thank you note.
"I still have the letter to this day," Burfict said. "He was telling me how much he enjoyed it at their dinner … That's all it's about. Making people's day and not just yours."
But Burfict knows an even better gift. Especially a Bengals-Browns game in Cleveland, where Mike Brown's father founded the NFL's first dynasty before moving south to start the Bengals.
"That puts more to it. You want to go out there and give your blood, sweat, and tears for the owner. And you want to get a win," Burfict said. "Knock on wood. We don't want anything going bad. It means a lot to him. It means a lot to us. It would be our first win of the season.
"It's a pretty big deal around here. Every time we play the Browns we try to bring that firepower. Every time we play in Cleveland you can feel the urgency. You can feel the correlation between Mr. Brown and the Browns. This game especially because we have no wins. So let's go and try to get one."
And then there's Hue Jackson, the Browns head coach that was a defensive assistant when Burfict was a rookie.
"Hue is my guy," Burfict said. "He's a good dude. He understands a lot. He's a smart guy. Put that on there. I'm pretty sure we're going to see some plays we haven't seen on film, but we're ready for it."
Cincinnati Bengals host practice at Paul Brown Stadium Practice Fields 9/28/2017