During ASU’s game versus Oregon State last Saturday, Vontaze Burfict head-butted Beavers’ QB Ryan Katz, an infraction that he was flagged for by the officials. The Arizona State defensive standout refused to calm down following that incident despite the efforts of the Sun Devil coaches and players.
“Obviously with some of the issues we had last game with Vontaze, Munnsy is gonna start,” Erickson stated. “Vontaze will play some, but again that can’t continue to happen, if it does he just won’t play. There’s where it’s at right now. We’ve been talking to him for a long time and we’ll continue to do that, and continue to work with him, but Munnsy will start because of that but Vontaze will play some.
“I wish I had a buck for every minute that we’ve talked (to Burfict), and he’s talked to a lot of different people and he’s getting it, but it’s just taking a little time.”
While several incidents have occurred over the course involving Burfict, this decision was made due to the incidents that took place on Saturday in Corvallis. Some teams would choose to suspended players for only a quarter or a half, yet Erickson stressed this will not be the case with Burfict.
“We’re not holding him out, we’re just starting Munns is the best way to put it,” Erickson pointed out, “but we’re not holding him out at all. I made the decision that Gerald is going to play, and the decision was made because of what happened last Saturday more than anything.
“Munnsy deserves it, and Vontaze will play. Hopefully he’ll continue to learn his lessons, and if he does then obviously he’ll play more.”
While Burfict has been the main culprit for several of the Sun Devils’ personal fouls, this lack of discipline has been a team issue that has been stirring for two straight years now. A change had to be made, and unfortunately (though not undeserving) for Burfict he had to be the one to take the fall.
“There were a couple issues in the game, you guys saw the game,” Erickson declared. “The one in particular; you’re going to have things in a game that are football related, that’s just how football is. You’re going to have those things; it’s a physical sport, but then there are things that aren’t football related that we just can’t have, and we had one of those in the game.
“So he’s not gonna start and hopefully he’ll learn to control himself. I believe he will; like I said we’re working with him on it, but you just can’t play when you do this kind of stuff.”
Following such a dramatic move it’s hard to predict how a player of Burfict’s caliber will respond, but for everyone involved with this team on the inside and outside, his reaction will tell a lot about his behavior moving forward.
“He feels bad, he really does,” Erickson mentioned. “He wants to be the best he can be, and he loves his teammates and that’s why were working with him. He’s one of the greatest guys off the field that I’ve been around, he does all the right things, and obviously on the field there are times where he loses control and we just can’t have that. When you have that you can’t play him.
“This totally has to do with Arizona State University and our football program and Vontaze. I want him to be the best he can be and if he learns from this he’ll be the best he can be. There are a lot of guys who had issues in college football, and he’s got that issue and he’s going to overcome it and play and be a successful player here. At this point if he does have it we just can’t play him.”
While such a move never comes at a good time, it becomes tougher with a Saturday road matchup against Washington and one of the top offensive players in the country, quarterback Jake Locker.
“It’s a talented team, but Gerald Munns is a pretty good football player too,” Erickson said of his new starter. “He’s a leader on our football team, so he’ll play well, and like I said, Vontaze is going to play, it’s just a matter of when.”
With his intense on-field play, and the obvious talent comparison, Erickson was asked whether Burfict with both his style of play and personality are similar to another standout middle linebacker he coached at the University of Miami, Ray Lewis.
“Ray never got to that. Ray just liked to hit people,” Coach said with a smile. “You’ve seen him play, that’s how he played in college too, and he does it the correct way. Vontaze will too, we’re just trying to get a point across here.”