<
>

Burfict's words give Rey lift in Bengals win

CINCINNATI -- Hours before Sunday's game, Cincinnati Bengals linebacker Vontaze Burfict let Vincent Rey in on his secret to success: get to the ball on the first play.

"It'll settle you down," Rey said, relaying the injured Pro Bowler's message to him.

With Burfict spending the afternoon under concussion protocol after suffering his second head injury in as many games the previous Sunday against Atlanta, the Bengals were forced to send Rey out to replace him.

He filled in quite nicely.

Rey finished with four tackles, including one on the first play of the game from scrimmage. As the Titans tried to execute a first-down run, Rey flowed right into the spot where running back Shonn Greene was trying to go and stopped him for no gain.

"I just happened to be there," Rey said. "The running back kind of fell, and I got on him. That did settle me down."

While Rey isn't as vociferous on the field as Burfict and isn't as intimidating as the starting weakside linebacker, he still packs a more-than-adequate punch as a backup. The former undrafted player out of Duke began making a name for himself in Bengals stripes on special teams, where he thrived through his first three seasons. Then last season, in Year 4, he earned the respect of Bengals fans after starting three straight games in the middle of the season, replacing middle linebacker Rey Maualuga.

Rey had 30 tackles, three sacks and an interception in those three games.

As one of the Bengals' smartest defenders, Rey is given the most opportunities to play all three linebacker positions. He knows each of the spots and has performed well in those positions throughout his career. He is viewed as a sort of a utility player at the position. When one starter goes down, regardless of what spot he plays, in comes Rey. And if he's on the field when Burfict and Emmanuel Lamur aren't, then Rey makes the calls in the huddle and presnap adjustments at the line.

Rey was credited with one of the four positive grades Pro Football Focus gave Bengals defenders after Sunday's 33-7 win over Tennessee. He had a plus-1.2 overall grade and a plus-1.3 grade against the run, according to PFF. The website also rewarded him with two quarterback hurries on the 49 snaps he played.

While it's clear Rey played well individually, he was quick to credit his teammates for performing well in Burfict's absence.

"When a guy like Vontaze is out, we all have to pick up the slack for him, not just one guy," Rey said. "We all raise our game."

Despite how well Rey played Sunday, Cincinnati hopes its defense will be at full capacity in 12 days when it travels to New England for a Sunday night game that comes after this week's bye. There is an expectation that the bye will give Burfict additional time to work through the symptoms of the concussion and eventually clear the protocol ahead of arguably the biggest game of the first half of the Bengals' season.