Vontaze Burfict cleared to practice before suspension

CINCINNATI -- The Cincinnati Bengals cleared linebacker Vontaze Burfict to return to practice on Monday, paving the way for him to get back on the field before his four-game suspension begins at the start of the regular season.

The Bengals now have two of their best players available again after tight end Tyler Eifert was activated off the physically unable to perform list last week.

Burfict began training camp on the non-football injury list and has spent the start of camp doing conditioning work on an adjacent field. The Bengals' official site described Burfict's absence as related to hamstring tightness.

Burfict last played on Dec. 24 after a concussion kept him out for two games earlier that month. He exited that game early with a shoulder injury and did not play the rest of the season. He played in only 10 games last season due to injuries and a three-game suspension that he received due to a preseason hit on Chiefs fullback Anthony Sherman.

Burfict received a four-game suspension this year for violation of the NFL's performance-enhancing drug policy after failing a drug test on Dec. 27. He is eligible to play in the preseason, however Bengals coach Marvin Lewis didn't say whether he planned to play Burfict in a preseason game.

Burfict did not play in the 2016 preseason when facing a three-game suspension for violations of NFL player safety rules, but he did play in two preseason games last year before receiving a five-game suspension for the Sherman hit that was later reduced to three on appeal.