Bengals cornerback Terence Newman breaks up a pass intended for wide receiver Jordan Shipley during Sunday's Mock Game.
Updated: 6:05 a.m.
You've got to love free agent rookie middle linebacker Vontaze Burfict's bid to make this team.
Ever since he arrived at Paul Brown Stadium back in May as the NFL's most controversial undrafted player, Burfict hasn't said "boo."
Neither have his coaches.
"He's out here just trying to make the football team and he's got a great start," head coach Marvin Lewis said after Burfict took another step.
On Sunday night's first series of the mock game, Burfict again did what he's supposed to do. Quarterback Andy Dalton tried to hit wide receiver A.J. Green over the middle on a slant and a tangle of hands hit it into the air. Burfict tracked it down for the interception and ran it for a few yards to the Black 25 that translated into the first score of the game, Thomas Weber's 29-yard field goal.
"He probably should have scored if he had any speed," joked linebackers coach Paul Guenther, who knows Burfict has speed where it counts but doesn't mind keeping his competitive flame lit.
"I'm just trying to prove to everybody I wasn't that guy that everybody said I was at the (scouting) combine," Burfict said. "I'm not a 40 track guy, whatever you guys want to call it. I'm not going to run the greatest 40. I'm 250 pounds. I just try to get over that hump and just let everybody know I'm not that guy at the combine. I'm a human being and do human being things."
Burfict will say he was all too human leading up to the draft in a stretch characterized by indifference and indiscretion. But not here. Guenther loves the way he's picked up the defense and gets people lined up. It's just been a matter of reigning in his composure on the field and keeping him within the defense. So far, so good.
Guenther, coach of the White team, was getting ribbed by Lewis for unloading the kitchen sink at the first offense.
"Hank Stram Jr.," Lewis called him.
But no one is tittering about signing Burfict now.
"Burfict is doing well. The whole linebacking corps is doing well," Guenther said. "I'm really happy with the group. It's going to be tough cuts."
Burfict kept his composure when he saw the ball in the air and executed one of those fundamentals he wasn't supposed to be able to execute.
"Good things happen when you keep running to the ball," he said.
As far as Burfict sees it, good things have happened ever since he convinced Lewis he wasn't the guy of the past few months. After Lewis blasted him for not running the 40 even though he had made the trip to Arizona State, he kept him in in mind because of the effort Burfict made to contact him. They had a deal about an hour after the draft.
And Burfict has begun to pay him back.
Take last week when he and center Kyle Cook got into what could have been a row. Cook didn't like the way Burfict hauled down running back BenJarvus Green-Ellis and Cook pushed him off. Burfict, whose 16 personal fouls in his last 26 games haunted him as much as the glacial 40, started to make a move.
But he stopped.
"I can't do it," Burfict said. "He came and pushed me in my face. I can't do that. I've been under Marvin Lewis's wing since he put me in. I just can't make him look bad. He's a great coach and I don't want to make him look bad."
Right after that play, left tackle Andrew Whitworth put his arm around Burfict and joked with him.
"He was just telling me, 'Very good not to make a reaction. Hug? Hug?' I said, 'It's all right. I'm going to the next play.' "
And he has.
SLOW START: A.J. Green and Andy Dalton picked up where they left off last season in the mock game to lead the Black Shirts first team to a 14-6 victory over the White Shirt backups before 6,500 at PBS.
After missing his first four passes that included an interception, Dalton found Green on his first three completions for 74 yards. The first was a classic Dalton-Green 49-yarder in which Green came back for the ball on a high bomb in the middle of the field and muscled it away from rookie safeties George Iloka and Tony Dye.
"The ball slipped out of Andy's hand, so I just came back for it," Green said.
The third was a six-yarder for a touchdown in which Green torched Dye on a fade for the Black's 7-3 lead they never gave up.
With the backups decimated at cornerback, Dye, a free agent from UCLA, had to play some cornerback, along with rookie wide receiver Taveon Rogers, switched to cornerback on Friday. Throw in another free-agent rookie corner, Chris Lewis-Harris, and Dalton showed no mercy.
He threaded 14 of his last 16 passes for 190 yards and two touchdowns in finishing 14-of-20. He was 5-for-6 for 62 yards in a two-minute drill that was capped by a five-yard touchdown pass to wide receiver Brandon Tate that made it 14-3. Then when head coach Marvin Lewis started the Black at its own 3, Dalton drove them inside the White 10 before Lewis cut it off. Dalton was 5-for-5 for 48 yards on that one to end his night.
Dalton's main target after the first three completions to Green was wide receiver Armon Binns with an unofficial five catches for 69 yards.
"We took a couple of shots at A.J. and he bailed us out and Andy bailed us out," said offensive coordinator Jay Gruden, who wasn't pleased with the slow start. "Everybody thought we could go out there and score anytime we wanted because they're the Ones. I think everyone was a little bit lackadaisical, a little lethargic, and we had a couple of stops and everyone woke up a little. (The 49-yarder) gave everyone a little more juice."
LEWIS'S CONDOLENCES: Lewis was surprised late Sunday morning when Eagles head coach Andy Reid texted him right back following the stunning announcement of the death of his son, 29-year-old Garrett Reid, at training camp. Andy Reid and Lewis forged a bond two years ago during a USO tour in 2010.
"It's a shame. I had a chance to communicate a little bit today with Andy," said a still visibly shaken Lewis after Sunday night's mock game. "I just feel sorry. I told him that he and his wife Tammy and the rest of his family are in our prayers. He's been so diligently working to try and get his son back on the right path and it's really a tragedy. It's sad and it just goes to show everybody that with kids and family how important every day is. We have to take a step back, acknowledge our children. We spend a lot of time doing what we do but we're always conscience of paying attention to them, too. "
SLANTS AND SCREENS
» Responding to an NFL.com report that fifth-round cornerback Shaun Prater is to undergo knee surgery that would pretty much end his season, Lewis said no decision has been made.
» Lewis didn't have much to say about the quick cut of veteran end Derrick Harvey, but the Bengals ate his $60,000 bonus very quickly. Lewis did say that the other first-round end, Jamaal Anderson, has looked good. Anderson can swing to tackle on passing downs and Lewis thinks that big linebackers like Manny Lawson, DeQuin Evans and Dontay Moch can play some end.
"We're going to try to let them rush and get going. We'll really take a long look at Moch in the preseason games that way as well," he said.
Black Passing: Andy Dalton 14-20, 190 yards, 2 TDs, 1 INT
Both Passing: Bruce Gradkowski 12-21, 41 yards; Zac Robinson 5-12, 41 yards
Black Rushing: BenJarvus Green-Ellis 7-30, Brian Leonard 3-11
White Rushing: Cedric Peerman 7-25, Aaron Brown 5-19
Black Receiving: A.J. Green 3-74, 1 TD; Armon Binns 5-69; Brandon Tate 4-30, 1 TD; Andrew Hawkins 2-16
White Receiving: Aaron Brown 4-27, Vidal Hazelton 3-11, Cedric Peerman 2-9, Justin Hilton 1-11, Marvin Jones 1-9, Mohamed Sanu 1-5, Jordan Shipley 1-1
Both punting: Kevin Huber (46, 43, 51, 42) 45.5-yard average
White Field Goals: Thomas Weber 29, 48