COLUMBUS, Ohio (AP) — Cincinnati Bengals quarterback Joe Burrow expects to start running on his surgically repaired left knee next month and is confident he’ll be ready to start the 2021 season.
“I’ve always been a fast healer,” Burrow said Tuesday in a Zoom session with reporters. “We’ll see how this goes when we get closer to the season, but I’m very confident I’ll be ready to go.”
The timetable is based on zero setbacks in the rigorous rehab of his knee. The rookie quarterback suffered torn ligaments in a Nov. 22 loss to Washington and had surgery in early December. He’s up and around now and was back in Cincinnati this week.
“I’m past the worst part,” Burrow said. “The first two weeks, you’ve got to get your motion back, so they’re tugging, pulling on it and it’s pretty miserable. So I’m past all of that. It’s kind of all downhill from here. There’s a lot of milestones to hit and a long road ahead.”
Burrow doesn’t think he’ll be ready to play in preseason games, but plans to participate as much as he can. Week 1 in early September is the target.
The 2019 Heisman Trophy winner and top overall NFL draft pick was among the league’s most prolific passers in his rookie season before going out with the injury in Week 11. He was learning to work around the Bengals’ pass-protection deficiencies, and the feeling was that he had the team on the right track. Amid injuries to multiple other key players, Cincinnati stumbled to a 4-11-1 finish.
“It was tough to be away from the guys, especially watching the games on TV,” he said. “I was in a (team) meeting every Saturday night and then I would watch the film of the game every week just to try to stay involved as much as I could.”
Burrow said he was pleased that coach Zac Taylor was given another chance, despite going 6-25-1 in his first two seasons with the team. He likes the offense and how willing Taylor is to let the quarterback develop his strengths and build around him.
“I think they did a very good job of understanding what I do well and tailoring it to me early on,” Burrow said. “And I think I took steps later in the year that allowed us to open up the offense a little bit. The next step is just hitting on those deep balls. We were so efficient in the short passing game that when we start hitting on those deep balls, it’s going to be tough to stop us.”
The Bengals’ offensive line is going to need an upgrade if Burrow is going to get the room to improve the vertical passing game. The team believes it took the first step by bringing back Frank Pollack as offensive line coach and run-game coordinator. He was popular with the Bengals players as an assistant coach in 2018 before moving on to the New York Jets when Cincinnati made a coaching change.
Personnel changes are sure to follow.
“That’s line one in every O-line room on all 32 teams — you’ve got to protect your quarterback,” Pollack said. “That’s what everyone is always constantly trying to get better at. We’ve got a good young quarterback, and we have to do everything we can to protect him. That’s line one.”