Given the fickle nature of the injury to that part of the body, the risk of a worse injury and the underrated part mobility plays in Burrow’s game, the Bengals could very well decide to sit him for a week or two — if not put him on injured reserve designed as a return after the bye week.
But…the Bengals are already 0-2, too. If they sit him and he doesn’t come back 100 percent anyway…one can see the dilemma.
Here’s a quick outliner on the pros and cons of the Bengals deciding to shut down Burrow.
Pro: He could get back to 100 percent
This feels unlikely, seeing as fiveish weeks off during the summer and a very limited playbook upon his return didn’t get him to 100 percent, either. But if that’s what the doctors advise and the team can keep its head above water while he’s out…a fully healthy Joe Burrow from late October onward could save the season.
Con: He doesn't reach 100 percent and timing suffers
…Or this could swing the other direction and time off doesn’t prevent an issue from quickly popping up again. And when he does get back after missing a game or two, the timing with his weapons and overall offense might be off as if it were nearly the preseason again, resulting in likely losses anyway.
Pro: The schedule
Say the Bengals rest Burrow through the Week 7 bye. He’d miss:
Week 3 vs. Rams (1-1)
Week 4 at Titans (1-1)
Week 5 at Cardinals (0-2)
Week 6 vs. Seahawks (1-1)
Those are all winnable games, especially if the defense keeps improving and a backup quarterback can execute the entire offense, keeping defenses honest with deep attempts.
If the Bengals can steal one or two of those, exiting the bye at 2-4 or even 3-3 just in time for Burrow to come back healthy would put the team in a spot to make a run.
Con: The backups
Jake Browning didn’t inspire a ton of confidence this summer, though veteran Trevor Siemian was somehow worse and no longer a member of the team. Will Grier is on the practice squad. A failure to attack the backup quarterback spot a little more aggressively once they lost Brandon Allen could lead to a situation where the backups struggle more than Burrow on one leg.
Pro: The AFC North
Yes, the Bengals are 0-2 in the division already. But if Burrow sits, the AFC North will continue to beat the tar out of itself. Look at Monday night when the Browns lost Nick Chubb and others, while the Steelers lost names like Minkah Fitzpatrick. Both of those teams appeared lost at sea as it is before injuries and when it comes to the Ravens, only time will tell if Lamar Jackson can stay healthy and effective for an entire season. If the Bengals can steal a few wins while Burrow rests, the division very much remains an open one.
Con: The window
This isn’t to suggest the Bengals need to throw Burrow out there in a panic (they won’t), but the contention window is closing. After this year, key names like DJ Reader are free agents. Tee Higgins too, and he doesn’t have a new deal. Ja’Marr Chase is up for an extension too, all on top of Burrow’s big new deal. This was one of the prime years to go Lombardi hunting but a simple-yet-complex tweak could spoil it by October.
So what to do?
It’s all about the doctors and trainers. The team has to weigh what they say against wanting to contend right now vs. Burrow’s long-term health, current championship window be darned. Truth is, an injury like this is exceptionally difficult to get to 100 percent in the middle of a season. If he’s taking practices off between games to heal, he’s missing reps that impact Sundays, too. It’s just a terribly unlucky spot to sit. If he plays through it, the anxiety of fans might be at an all-time high on nearly every snap and it probably won’t be the last time we’ve heard about a “tweak” to the injury. The best course of action is to make a judgment call by Thursday’s first practice of the week so that if need be, the backup can get the full week of first-team reps. Putting him on injured reserve probably isn’t necessary, but they certainly shouldn’t be opposed to sitting him as long as it takes.