Bengals Coverage

Bengals Beat: Analyzing The Masterful PR Messaging From Joe Burrow As Contract Extension Awaits

CINCINNATI — Reading between the lines with Joe Burrow can be tricky.

He said all the right things Wednesday about the front office and coaching staff and the way the organization and operated since he was drafted in 2020, changing the course and perception of the franchise still in search of its first Super Bowl championship.

The literal read – of course – is that the Bengals franchise quarterback does indeed want to play his entire career in Cincinnati and take his place among the most iconic athletes in the city’s history.

Reading between the lines, he needs and wants the help of the franchise to make that possibility a reality. He’s about to get it.

He’s on the verge of a contract that will easily make him the highest paid athlete in Cincinnati sports history, and perhaps give him the current title of “highest paid in NFL” for a while.

Wednesday’s press conference was a master class by Burrow in how to navigate the tricky waters of a pending contract extension combined with the return from a right calf strain. Toward the end of his 18-minute briefing with reporters, Burrow was asked if he’s had any contact or conversations with the recently-retired Tom Brady.

“We have stayed in contact,” Burrow said. “He’s helped me some. Definitely has. I think that’s what all the great quarterbacks do across time. They continue to help the young guys impart knowledge on them so they can be their best selves and I’m appreciative of him for that.”

How appropriate. Having covered TB12 for his entire 19-year run with the Patriots, I can tell you Brady was unflappable in his weekly press conferences. Brady carried a different style, more corporate. But Burrow is also very protective of his image in a different, understated way. Burrow always maintains poise and control.

“That’s the last thing I’m thinking about,” Burrow said when asked about potential contract distractions. “I’m worried about beating the Browns right now.”

Burrow, like Brady, has always insisted that he wants the players around him to give him the best chance to bring multiple Super Bowls to Cincinnati. Money was never the driver to Brady, rings were. You get the exact same sense about Burrow.

Many athletes facing this type of scrutiny on a dais – with the whole sports world paying attention to every syllable – would not be able to perform as smoothly and proficiently as No. 9 did Wednesday. Yes, he has the pedigree and experience of a national championship and a Heisman trophy at LSU that give him the confidence to handle this off-field pressure.

And maybe that’s one of the qualities, along with clearly being a transformational quarterback, that drew the Bengals to him in 2020.

While those qualities have endeared him to the front office, his stated desire to win multiple Super Bowls in Cincinnati and play his entire career in his home state have earned him legendary status in the hearts of the WhoDey kingdom.

“Yeah this is where I want to be. This is where I want to be my whole career. We’re working toward making that happen,” Burrow said.

That is the perfect answer marrying his contract extension and its pending status with the more certain desire of playing his whole career in Cincinnati.

“You’ve seen what the front office has done and what Zac (Taylor) has done in their time here,” Burrow added. “I’m a small part of that. I’m excited to be a part of that. And we have great people in the locker room that grind every day, that are excited to go and showcase their talents and excited to go and do it in the city of Cincinnati. We have the best fans and so this is where I want to be.”

In saying he’s a “small” part of that, he’s trying to remain humble. That’s a great message to send. Even if it’s symbolic, it’s the gesture that counts. Obviously, his contract extension won’t exactly match his humble position statement.

But more importantly, he’s already proven to be a powerful – if not vocal – leader. He’s been a team captain every year in the NFL.

Burrow was speaking publicly for the first time since July 26 and he knew all of these questions and more would be tossed in his direction.

He handled it all smoothly, while still getting his points across.

Yes, he looks forward to a contract extension that will be representative of his enormous value to the Bengals.

Yes, football means more to him than the details of any contract extension.

These are not mutually exclusive. You can have both positions. That was the gist of his discussion of his contract.

As for his health, he’s not going to put himself or the team’s championship potential in jeopardy if he can’t sufficiently avoid Myles Garrett on Sunday, or any rush in an NFL age of get the quarterback.

“I’m gonna be myself, I’m gonna make the plays that are there, I’m gonna take what the defense gives me, I’m gonna take shots like we always do and I’m gonna play my game,” Burrow told me.

He said he knew right away that his July 27 injury was not an Achilles. He knew it was a calf strain. Burrow has always had a remarkable gift of self-awareness.

“Yeah, it was frustrating. I would say this year it was different,” Burrow said, comparing it to the appendicitis exactly one year earlier. “I was able to maintain lifting through the whole process, so I’m in great shape. As good a shape as I’ve been in heading into Week 1. Much different than last year when I was just trying to get back to full strength and full health. I feel much better going into Week 1 this year.”

Calf strain aside, Burrow enters his fourth NFL season feeling as good about himself as he ever has.

“I’m in a really good spot throwing wise,” Burrow said. “I’m spinning it as good as I ever have, it’s jumping off my hand as good as it ever has before, I work on that every offseason. You work on little things here and there that are going to find you that extra mile per hour or that extra rpm or is gonna help you put it in a smaller window. So you work on those things every year, and it’s just another year of that. So I’m in a great spot.”

Wednesday was a good reminder of the full package the Bengals are buying when they invest in Joe Burrow.

Mike Petraglia

Joined CLNS Media in 2017. Covered Boston sports as a radio broadcaster, reporter, columnist and TV and video talent since 1993. Covered Boston Red Sox for MLB.com from 2000-2007 and the New England Patriots for ESPN Radio, WBZ-AM, SiriusXM, WEEI, WEEI.com and CLNS since 1993. Featured columnist for the Boston Celtics on CelticsBlog.

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