Arizona State linebacker Vontaze Burfict, a big hitter whose discipline problems have dropped his draft stock, told reporters Sunday that he's the best linebacker in the draft, a leader who will change the defense wherever he goes, and that the penalties he racked up come from the fact that "I just love to hit and just hate to lose."
"I'm a soft-spoken guy, shy sometimes, but when I'm on the field I just hate to lose," Burfict said.
Burfict's highlight-reel hits have some fans dreaming of him as the attitude-changing linebacker the Eagles need, but scouts have questioned his instincts and self control. He had a down season for Arizona State last year, was benched at times and got into a locker room fight with a teammate.
Reports at the time said Burfict threw the first punch, but he gave a different account, saying the altercation began in a seven-on-seven drill that wasn't supposed to involve hitting. Burfict said the receiver hit him anyway.
"We had a little argument and brung it into the locker room, we started chatting about it, he started rough-housing me and pushed me, and my first instinct was to swing on him," Burfict said. "Everybody thinks I'm a bad guy because my instinct was to swing on him."
He later added, "I know this is a business now and there's things you cannot do in a business."
On the field, Burfict said he gained weight -- going up to 260 pounds last season -- and that it made him tire faster. He told reporters he's now down to 248.
"I think that I'll come in and just change the whole atmosphere of a team. I'm a leader, and just bring aggression to the game on the whole side of the defense," Burfict said. He said he tries to model his game after Ray Lewis and Nick Barnett, and has big dreams for his NFL career.
At one point Burfict was considered a top-of-the-draft talent, but his stock has dropped amid questions of whether he can harness ihs potential.
"I love being coached, want to be better and hopefully in the Hall of Fame one day," he said.
But he laid some of the blame for his disappointing season on his coaches.
"I thought I played average (last year). I could have played better," he said. "Coaches kind of messed me up. I didn't know if I was going to start a game, I didn’t know if I was going to be benched, so it hurt me at point in times, but I tried to fight through it."