The last time Cincinnati Bengals quarterback Joe Burrow was sitting at a podium in front of cameras and a microphone, his team had just lost Super Bowl 56 and he was hobbling around.
Fast-forward two months, he and most of his teammates are back on the practice fields as the Bengals’ offseason gets underway. Burrow spoke to the media for close to 20 minutes fielding several questions, including how he has managed to get over the crushing loss to the Los Angeles Rams.
Burrow said despite the magnitude of the Super Bowl, he treated the loss like any other game. He watched the film the next day and gave himself a week before he started working out again. He doesn’t sulk. It’s not who he is.
“I didn’t do much for about a week and then I was back at it,” Burrow said. “I’m not the kind of guy that wants to take a month off, sit on the couch, watch TV and get fat. I’m happier when I’m working out and that’s what I do for fun, so we got right back at it.”
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Head coach Zac Taylor is easing his players into the offseason. He delayed the start of the voluntary program for two weeks to give his coaches more time to focus on the draft and his players more time to recover. Eighty-six out of 88 players attended Tuesday’s practice.
Safety Jessie Bates and defensive end Trey Hendrickson were the only two players not present. Bates is in the middle of contract negotiations with the Bengals and opted to stay away from the team for time being. Hendrickson, according to Taylor, is choosing to work out on his own. Taylor has no qualms about either player not being in attendance as these are all voluntary workouts.
After a magical second season in the NFL, Burrow said the standard is set for how he expects to play and what he thinks his offense and team can do. The 25-year-old quarterback wants to see more consistency from himself and the offensive unit this season.
“We need to start stronger this year,” Burrow said. “As an offense, we kind of just skidded at that beginning part when we weren’t quite doing all the things we needed to do to win those games that we expected to win. Just going into this year, I just expect to be a more refined, more technical offense that really maintains the explosiveness and efficiency throughout the entire year.”
The Bengals ranked No. 7 in scoring (27.1 points per game), No. 13 in yards per game (361.5) and No. 16 in third-down efficiency last season. Burrow was sacked a league-high 70 times and Cincinnati finished middle of the pack in run-game statistics as they averaged 102.5 yards per game on the ground.
After the season, the Bengals immediately took steps to improve their biggest weaknesses from 2021. In the first week of free agency, Taylor and director of personnel Duke Tobin signed three offensive linemen that they expect to be starters in right tackle La’el Collins, right guard Alex Cappa and center Ted Karras.
Burrow played a role in the Bengals’ recruiting efforts to land Collins, a former LSU Tiger. When Collins arrived in Cincinnati for his visit, Burrow hosted him and several other of his new teammates over at his house.
Although Burrow and his new protectors haven’t spent much time together on the field, he’s certainly pleased with what he’s seen so far.
“They have been great so far,” Burrow said. “Really taking ownership of what they need to do to understand the offense. Coming here and give everything they have in the little OTAs or whatever you want to call them, the individual periods that we are having. They have been great in the weight room, great in the locker room. They have been exactly what we wanted.”
And as for how Burrow is feeling physically, he was throwing passes – albeit at a walk-through pace and no contact – without a knee brace. Following the ACL/MCL injury he suffered in his rookie season, Burrow played the entire 2021 season with a brace on his knee. Taylor said following practice it’s a positive sign for Burrow and when asked if he’ll wear the brace during this season, Cincinnati’s franchise quarterback said he’s undecided.
“I don't anticipate wearing it, but maybe get to game day and I might feel a little more comfortable having it on,” Burrow said.
This is the first offseason since he was drafted as the No. 1 overall pick in the 2020 season that Burrow is healthy and able to take advantage of getting reps with his team. Each year in the NFL brings new challenges and there’s no question with Burrow under center, the Bengals won’t let the end of the 2021 season linger.
“I'm not going to accept losing," Burrow said.
This article originally appeared on Cincinnati Enquirer: Joe Burrow opens up on Cincinnati Bengals' Super Bowl 56 loss