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With 'jitterbugs,' Vontaze Burfict eases back into Bengals lineup

CINCINNATI -- Believe it or not, Vontaze Burfict's first day of a new football season is a lot like your kids' first day of school: full of nerves, butterflies and excitement.

"The first day out here I had the little jitterbugs," the Cincinnati Bengals linebacker said late Thursday. "[But] I felt good and my injury feels good. Everyone else had three days ahead of me with pads and everything, so the first day I put pads on I felt a little heavy. But you just have to get used to it."

Burfict was back in the Bengals' practice lineup after missing the start of training camp with an undisclosed injury that landed him on Cincinnati's active/non-football injury list just before camp started. He came off that list early Thursday.

Last month, coach Marvin Lewis said he has no plans to play Burfict in preseason games. Much of the coach’s reasoning stems from the fact that he believes he knows what Burfict can do on the field, and he also wants to keep Burfict as healthy as possible ahead of his looming three-game suspension.

Burfict will miss the first three games of the season due to his sometimes overly aggressive playing style. A hit to the head of Steelers receiver Antonio Brown in the Bengals' playoff loss to Pittsburgh in January was the tipping point for the league.

Lewis reiterated Thursday his desire to hold Burfict's contact to a minimum.

"I'm not looking for anything special out of Vontaze," Lewis said. "Just go out and practice and do his job. This is not an eye-opening day for Vontaze Burfict, so nothing special out of him. Just stay healthy."

Burfict estimated he was part of 23 plays in his first workout of the season, and was encouraged by how he played.

"Every time I practice, I practice at 110 percent like it's a game," Burfict said. "[Joint practices next week] against Minnesota and the practice against my teammates, those will be my game-time game reps."

Here are some other observations from the Bengals' latest practice:

  • In addition to the welcome sight of Burfict in shoulder pads, the Bengals had to be pleased to see tight end Tyler Eifert go through some conditioning and rehab exercises on a side field. Eifert is trying to return from a May ankle surgery in time for the start of the season. He was joined there by rehabbing receiver Jake Kumerow (hamstring) and linebacker Trevor Roach (hamstring). Tight end Matt Lengel (undisclosed) hasn't practiced all week.

  • Lewis said cornerback William Jackson III could return at some point this season after he undergoes surgery to reattach the pectoral muscle he tore in practice Monday. It's still a serious injury, and it could land the rookie on injured reserve, possibly with the designation to return.

  • Much of Thursday's practice was devoted to red zone and special-teams work. On special teams, the Bengals practiced standard kickoffs and squib kicks. In red zone territory, quarterback AJ McCarron had a tough time getting passes into the hands of his wideouts before finally connecting with A.J. Green on a touchdown Green was "penalized" for. Officials, in town to share the latest league rule changes with the Bengals, flagged Green when he punted the ball a short distance after his score. Just before that touchdown, a pair of McCarron passes into the end zone were dropped by rookie receivers Tyler Boyd and Rashaun Simonise. Another was tipped away by middle linebacker Rey Maualuga.