CINCINNATI — The quarterback is often the pulse and barometer of a football team.
With the Bengals, Joe Burrow is all that and more. On Wednesday, the first day of camp, Burrow displayed the kind of leadership and focus that winning teams crave.
Burrow echoed the feeling of head coach Zac Taylor before the first practice of camp when he said the team came ready this year to come out of the chute, guns blazing.
Even if it’s friendly fire when Trey Hendrickson and new left tackle Orlando Brown Jr. got into it on just the third snap of 11-on-11 work of camp.
“Guys are excited to be back. Everyone is chomping at the big ready to go,” Burrow said. “It’s a long season, a long training camp. It’s going to be intense on that field. We have a bond in the locker room that is unbreakable and going to translate on the field on Sundays. That’s the most important thing at the end of the day. We are going to continue to get better on the field but that’s what wins you games, locker room relationships.”
Burrow understands that there’s no time or reason for players not to come ready with a different purpose in mind. Sure, every team needs to build in camp. But these Bengals are starting from a different place, and that’s a good thing. These Bengals know it’s really Super Bowl or bust.
“The thing I really feel right now is like these guys are in the starting blocks ready to fire out,” Taylor said. “And that’s just the sense you get around being around these guys is they’re just ready. You’ve really felt that since the spring. Joey Boese made that comment to me a couple times during OTAs leading into summer break.
“These guys wanted to start going now and start playing these games and you don’t take that for granted because that’s not always the case. And in the years I’ve coached, you don’t always feel that, and this is one of those years I certainly feel like these guys are ready to go.”
The words of Burrow and Taylor Wednesday essentially underscored that sense throughout the organization.
“I just think we have been together for three years for the most part,” Burrow added. “Additions here or there, but the core group of guys have been together. We know what we have to do throughout training camp to improve our skills and craft and get to where we want to get to. Through the whole offseason guys were training that way and taking things very seriously. The relationships in teh locker room are why everyone is excited to be back. The first day back is always the most fun because you get to see everybody. That’s what I love about the game.”
The singular focus is what made Tom Brady so great for so long. The offseason is for attending MMA events and watching YouTube videos on his couch. The first day of camp is the end of the offseason and turning up the intensity. It’s something keenly aware to Burrow.
Joe Burrow says 2023 Bengals have "unbreakable" bond pic.twitter.com/fjEhseDucJ
— Mike Petraglia (@Trags) July 27, 2023
“You always have personal goals. I have been thinking about goals a lot lately,” Burrow said. “I think where my mindset is these days is just improving every day. The point I am at now, I am one of the best in the world. If I just continue to improve every day I’m going to help myself a lot more than if I set these goals for myself that are tangible. I’m just focused on getting better every single day. I know that’s cliche but that’s the best way to go about it.”
Burrow’s focus and attitude clearly are in mid-season form. Asked about his first day on the practice fields, the Bengals quarterback didn’t hesitate.
“Pretty damn good,” he said. “I put all the balls where I wanted to. I made good reads. I made good checks. Good first day.”
Details. That is something Burrow has refined over his first three seasons. It’s those kind of details that make the difference all season, but especially in December and January.
Burrow, of course, is also keenly aware that a contract extension is coming down the pike at some point following Justin Herbert’s 5-year, $262.5 million deal with the Chargers.
“I met Justin after we hung out a bit at the combine,” Burrow said. “I talked to him the last time we played him but other than that we don’t really talk to much.”
That deal no doubt accelerated the already-spinning wheels in his head about the financial aspect of the game.
“Obviously that’s a big moment in your career but you put that all aside,” Burrow said. “That’s obviously the goal when you get into the league to get a second contract and play well on your first one, but I’ve played well. I’ve done everything I can do. When it happens it happens and I’m just excited to be back playing football. That’s what I really love about this whole process and why I think I’ve been so good because i love the game. That’s all secondary.”
One thing not taking up his time is worrying about appearing on Netflix’s “Quarterback” series.
“Maybe one year. This year I am not,” Burrow said. “We’ll see. I would like to do it maybe a couple years down the road but I don’t think now is the right time.
“Everybody knows that I’m a very private person, especially in my personal life, so that’s a window into a personal life that I’m not quite ready to share yet.”
The Bengals announced Thursday morning that they have extended edge rusher Trey Hendrickson for another year, putting in him in Stripes through 2025 while loosening up their cap. Hendrickson’s cap hit for this season is $15.4 million for 2023. It was $17.5 million for 2024.
Hendrickson, a seventh-year player who was clawed by left tackle Orlando Brown Jr. in practice Wednesday, joined the Bengals as an unrestricted free agent in 2021 after spending his first four NFL seasons with the New Orleans Saints. In 31 regular-season games with Cincinnati (29 starts), he has 22 sacks, six forced fumbles and three passes defensed.
First scuffle of Bengals camp Trey Hendrickson and Orlando Brown Jr. were among those in the middle of it. pic.twitter.com/vDFknjTTeK
— Mike Petraglia (@Trags) July 26, 2023
The player rated No. 75 in the NFL Network’s Top 100 of 2023, has been selected to the Pro Bowl in each of the past two seasons, and his 22 sacks since the start of the 2021 campaign are the eighth-most in the NFL in that span. Hendrickson has also started seven postseason games for the Bengals, totaling 3.5 sacks and one forced fumble.
The Bengals practiced for just over two hours in the blazing 90-degree heat Wednesday as they work on their early-camp conditioning. The heat wave is expected to last through the end of the week, providing plenty of conditioning opportunities for the team.
Joe Burrow looked crisp in 11-on-11, including a long touchdown pass to Tee Higgins down the left sideline, beating Sidney Jones IV and Nick Scott, who was coming over to give help.
Joe Burrow tosses a TD to Tee Higgins Wednesday pic.twitter.com/WIG0aa9x7Z
— Mike Petraglia (@Trags) July 26, 2023
Burrow’s reads and audibles were clean and his passes mostly on target.
Chido Awuzie, as Zac Taylor indicated earlier in the day, was kept out of 11-on-11s and 7-on-7s as the team takes
its time easing him back from ACL surgery last November. Awuzie has been cleared to practice off PUP so it’s just a matter of time there.
Drue Chrisman was not with the team on the first day of practice Wednesday, tending to a medical emergency that landed him in the hospital.
“The situation is people took care of him quickly. He’s been responsive,” Taylor said after practice. “He’s been talking to us. He’s been in great spirits. It was taken care of quickly.”
If this date wasn’t already circled on your calendar… do it now.
— Cincinnati Bengals (@Bengals) July 27, 2023
The Bengals will have their first “White Tiger” Game of 2023 on Sept. 25 against the LA Rams at Paycor Stadium. The Bengals will feature their alternative white helmets with white uniforms and black and orange trim. It will be televised on ESPN Monday Night Football and be part of the Ring of Honor induction of Boomer Esiason and Chad Johnson. The Bengals were 2-0 last year in the unis, beating the Miami Dolphins in September at home and the Pittsburgh Steelers on the road.