Joe Burrow will be reaching a big milestone when he takes the field on Sunday when the Cincinnati Bengals host the Miami Dolphins for their preseason finale. After tearing both his ACL and MCL in November of 2020, he took a relentless approach to his rehab process.
It paid off.
Bengals head coach Zac Taylor told reporters before practice on Wednesday he is letting his quarterback play on Sunday in a limited capacity. Taylor and Burrow have been in constant communication therefore it did not come as a shock when the 24-year-old was told he would be suiting up this week.
“I think it’s important going into this last preseason game to be as close as you can to have a game-like feel,” Burrow said. “I’m going to be in the huddle during (Week) 1, so I need to be out there for the first play of this game.”
Taylor has a plan for how much he’ll let Burrow do and the Bengals have been very calculated with their approach in how they manage their second-year QB. Burrow has practiced in every practice during training camp except for one. He traveled to Cincinnati’s first two preseason games but did not dress.
For Burrow, getting in the huddle and having his teammates get used to hearing him make play calls is important. Although he does it in practice every day, he and Taylor stressed how different play-calling can be during a game.
In the 10 games he started last season, Burrow threw for 2,688 yards and 13 touchdowns with a 65.3 completion percentage.
Sunday will also be the first time Burrow plays with right tackle Riley Reiff in a game. The Bengals signed Reiff on March 19 after he spent four years with the Minnesota Vikings playing both left and right tackle. Reiff was one of the team’s biggest signings as improving Burrow’s protection was a top priority.
Taylor also confirmed center Trey Hopkins will play giving he and Burrow a few chances to practice their exchange. Hopkins is recovering from an ACL tear in Week 17 of last season.
“It’s more for the unit as a whole,” Taylor said of his decision. “They have not got a chance in a preseason game to go out there with us. They’re in the huddle, they can talk amongst themselves. Kind of get in their routine a little bit. You got Riley Reiff, a new guy, we need him to be out there with the group. Trey Hopkins coming off the ACL, Joe coming off the ACL. It’ll just be good for them to look at each other in the huddle for the limited snaps they get and continue to form that comradery they’ve already generated.”
The Bengals return most of their starters from the 2020 season on offense with rookie wide receiver Ja’Marr Chase and Reiff being two new starters added to the lineup. While Chase and Burrow have years of banked reps dating back to their time at LSU together, there’s still a transition process taking place. Chase has had an up and down training camp with several drops and could benefit from a strong showing in the preseason finale.
Burrow’s return to 100% hasn’t been without bumps in the road. Cincinnati’s starting offense has looked particularly sharp in practice over the last few days, but Burrow and Co. also struggled early on in camp resulting in Taylor giving his quarterback a day off to reset.
Regardless of how many snaps Burrow will get on Sunday and the outcome of the game, the Bengals getting their star quarterback on the field after the gruesome injury he suffered is a win.
And he knows it.
“Just being on the field,” Burrow said. “Being in the huddle with the guys, that’s success for me on Sunday."