You can expect whenever the Raiders sign a player on whom Mike Mayock ever had a strong opinion in his years where his draft opinions were all very public, that opinion will be unearthed. That’s what happened when the team signed Vontaze Burfict earlier this month following his release from the Bengals.
“I put his tape on with absolutely zero preconceived notions,” Mayock said in a conference call with the media in the days before the 2012 draft. “I watched three tapes and really didn’t like him as a football player.”
“I think he’s a non-draftable kid. For me, he’s a free agent.”
Mayock was at the league meetings in Phoenix Arizona this week and for the first time since the team signed Burfict, media was able to ask him about how his opinion on Burfict had seemingly changed since his initial diagnosis.
“Let’s set the record straight, ok,” Mayock responded. “The comment I made that a lot of people want to glom on was that I said Vontaze Burfict wouldn’t get drafted. Right? That was the comment that people wanted to talk about. And he didn’t, ok? It wasn’t anything to do with his talent level. It’s just that the last year he played, he wasn’t in good shape, he didn’t have good tape. I think he would probably acknowledge that now. So, my entire evaluation was based on a really gifted and talented guy that didn’t have a good year and still came out early.”
Fair enough, although “I don’t like him as a football player” does kinda sound like an indictment on his talent. But regardless, he was right about Burfict coming out early and his prospects of being drafted. From there it was up to Burfict to prove that opinion wrong and make an NFL career for himself.
Burfict was able to do that with the help of his position coach, Paul Guenther, who would later become his defensive coordinator. And with Guenther as DC in Oakland, Burfict knew just where he wanted to be once he was released. The feeling was mutual from Guenther.
“Paul Guenther literally became one of his best friends, earned his trust, showed him how to become an NFL player, and kind of unearthed the fact that on top of being this incredibly tough, physical guy, he was also smart and instinctive,” Mayock continued.
Even with Burfict’s talents, he has still become well known as a dirty player (though Burfict disagrees with that label), leading to double digit instances of fines and/or suspensions. Paul would have to make a strong case to Mayock to take on the troubled linebacker.
“Paul had him for a long time. Paul knows this guy better than any of us and Paul banged to table to him hard,” Mayock added. “I challenged him a little bit. ‘You know, he’s getting older, he didn’t have a great year last year, but there’s still talent there, Paul. How are we dealing with this?’ And he’s like, ‘Mike’ — Paul was point blank — ‘this guy will be in great shape, he’ll come in with a chip on his shoulder, he loves our defense, he knows all out terminology, he can get us set up, our front seven set up snap to snap. When your defensive coordinator feels that strongly about something and it’s a position of needs and he’s only 28 years old, let’s go.
“So, Vontaze Burfict is a Raider and I’m all in.”
Basically, the record Mayock is setting straight is that the X-factor in Burfict outplaying his draft position and Mayock’s opinion of his prospects coming out of college was Guenther’s tutelage. That tutelage will continue in Oakland and so Mayock is all about it. Without it, no way Burfict would be on this team.