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Injured Vontaze Burfict still has 'a long ways to go' for Bengals

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CINCINNATI -- It came as little surprise Tuesday seeing Vontaze Burfict open the Cincinnati Bengals' organized team activities (OTA) practices on a side field and without a helmet.

Still overcoming a knee injury that required microfracture surgery in January, Burfict has been in rehab for more than five months. At the time, doctors expressed little optimism that he would be able to do much by the time training camp started in July.

That still appears to be the case.

"Vontaze will be in rehab all the way through the summer," coach Marvin Lewis said. "So he's got a long ways to go."

Asked if that meant Burfict could miss the start of training camp, Lewis coyly responded by saying the prolific tackler would be back once he was cleared medically.

"It's like Marvin Jones," Lewis said, referring to the Bengals receiver who also missed Tuesday's practice after being hurt the past year. "When they get here and prove that they're ready, then they'll prove that they're ready."

Unlike Burfict, Jones said Tuesday he was close to returning. Burfict looked anything but close to returning during the 10 minutes of conditioning he endured while reporters were present. He walked with a hobble and generally looked uncomfortable after he ran.

"That's a surgery that takes a bit," Lewis said. "He's trying to beat the odds and [recover] quicker, but he's got a lot of work to do."

Burfict only played in parts of five games last season before getting lost for the year with a knee injury. It occurred in Week 8 against Baltimore when Burfict was trying to avoid a low block. He came off for a couple of plays and then went back out on the field to assist Cincinnati's defense in a dramatic goal-line stand in the opening half of the AFC North contest.

Along with the knee issue, Burfict missed parts of other games due to head and neck injuries.

The 2013 Pro Bowler had only 29 tackles last season after leading the league with 171 stops the year before.