Joe Burrow isn’t one to get cute with his messaging. He’s direct and purposeful, though he’ll often deliver it with a smile. And on Tuesday he showed off his new fashion, a sharp-looking headband.
“I’m digging it, I’m digging it. It’s different, I asked him (Monday), so you are growing your hair out? He’s like yeah, and I like the headband with it and he does to,” Tee Higgins said. “Whatever makes him feel good.”
Burrow chose to wear the headband for Tuesday’s practice in front of cameras but no in the press conference in the media room.
“When I’m working out I definitely wear it. Hair is getting too long to not,” Burrow said, before detailing his new hair style. “I needed something new. I had that same haircut for awhile. Decided to change it up and we’ll see how it goes.”
With new hair, Burrow was direct – though brief – about his contract extension talks with and demands of the team. He was genuine and articulate about paying for mental health assistance his foundation is offering 20 local families who are being serviced by Cincinnati Children’s Hospital.
And he sounded focused on getting back to his offseason work with teammates this week in an effort to get back and finally win a Super Bowl in Las Vegas next February.
On Tuesday, his first public media session of the offseason, the Bengals franchise quarterback let his teammates – and the rest of the NFL know – he’s ready to do whatever it takes to get back to the Super Bowl. And he expects the same from everyone in Stripes.
“Yeah, we know what it takes to get there. We’ve been there, done that, haven’t quite gotten over that last hump yet and so that’s where we’re headed,” Burrow said. “Whatever we got to do to make that happen, whether it’s, you never know what day in offseason or what thing you worked on is going to end up helping your guys make that last play in that last game to get you over that hump. And so you got to stay disciplined and maintain your work ethic through the entire offseason because like I said, you never know what opportunity you’re going to be put in to make that play.”
This may seem insignificant and procedural on the surface but when your franchise quarterback comes out and essentially says it’s Super Bowl or bust, it’s a clear tone-setter for everyone else that steps foot in the building.
Why does Joe Burrow take off-season so seriously? Because every detail matters when you’re trying to get back to the Super Bowl and win it. pic.twitter.com/5R8JyWEfLo
— Mike Petraglia (@Trags) May 16, 2023
Said another way, turning points don’t just happen in the regular season. One adjustment during an offseason rep can change the way a play is called. A sight-adjustment at the line of scrimmage between Burrow and Tee Higgins (who didn’t have to show up Tuesday with no extension worked out) could wind up being the difference in an incomplete pass or interception and a game-changing downfield play.
“Yeah. You rep these routes and these things in individual whether it’s certain offseason schedules or a play or a throw or an arm slot or a pocket movement that you’ve got,” Burrow said. “Like I said, you never know when it’s going to come up in a game and when defensive lineman win in certain ways and your body is in a different way, every play is unique.
“So, you really have to have your imagination and training in the offseason to prepare yourselves for those moments because in a three-step drop you have to throw the out route every time. But that’s not the reality in the NFL. You’re gonna have to have some imagination in the offseason by yourself with your guys on air to make those reps count.”
Yes, Burrow was asked about the contract extension coming down the pike. This was the sum total of his update, including whether he had spoken with good friend Josh Allen about his $258 million extension in Buffalo back in 2021.
“No, haven’t really talked to him about it,” Burrow said. “I’m pretty clear on what I want in the contract and what I think is best for myself and the team. We’re on the road to making that happen.”
“We’re on the road to making that happen.” Joe Burrow on his contract that will be good for both him and Bengals offense as a whole. pic.twitter.com/rQXhIKrYmg
— Mike Petraglia (@Trags) May 16, 2023
What Burrow wants just as much as financial security becoming of an NFL franchise quarterback in this day and age is the ability to compete for multiple Super Bowls, something you don’t get if too much of your cap is tied up in one player.
“You’ve got to have good players,” Burrow continued. “It doesn’t matter how good your quarterback is. If you don’t have good players around him, you’re not going to be a very good team.”
Burrow isn’t signing a long-term extension to quarterback a team that’s not very good. And by Burrow’s standards, not very good is not competing for a Super Bowl every season.
Competing for Super Bowls doesn’t just mean keeping your proven stars, it means successfully drafting new ones. Receiver Charlie Jones could be someone who might make an immediate impact out of Purdue. Receiver Andrei Iosivas could make the roster out of Princeton. Chase Brown was drafted out of Illinois as a threat in the run and pass blocking game.
“All the guys we (drafted) on offense that are rookies have looked really good so far,” Burrow said. “There haven’t really been any major busts as far as running the wrong route or anything like that. That’s the first step on offense. As they start to do that, they start to play faster and more sure of themselves. They’ve looked very smooth so far touching the ball, running the ball, and have a good feel for it.”
Then there’s Irv Smith Jr., the tight end who will get first dibs on replacing Hayden Hurst in the pass game.
“First of all, Irv is upstairs all day every day learning the offense, watching tape with James (Casey), so that’s exciting to hear,” Burrow said. “He’s looking smooth, big strong, athletic, smooth hands so we’re excited to have that guy.”
Ultimately, this is about playing to potential and expectations. And Burrow, with no pandemic, no offseason knee surgery and no appendicitis to worry about, feels pretty, pretty good heading into Year 4.
“Yeah. I’m feeling really comfortable,” Burrow admitted. “But when you do have a lot of new faces, you do have to kind of find what your culture is going to be like as a locker room. You have a lot of new faces in there, a lot of new rookies, a lot of new faces on defense. So you have to build that culture from the ground up and that’s what this time, right now, is all about. Just getting around the guys. Getting to know them. Getting to know who they are as people, who they are as players and finding their place on the team and building that culture.
Burrow knows business is business. He knew it with good friend Jessie Bates last year when Bates didn’t show up until the second week of the preseason. He knows a similar story could unfold with Jonah Williams, the tackle displaced to right tackle with the signing of Orlando Brown Jr. Williams has yet to report to voluntary workouts or Phase 2 of off-season workouts that began this week.
“Yeah we love Jonah,” Burrow said. “Jonah’s been a big part of our success for the last couple of years so hopefully we have him back. But business is business and whatever Jonah thinks is best for his career, what he’s gonna do, we’ll support him in whatever he decides.”
Fresh from an offseason training program at the Austin Collective in Texas, Ja’Marr Chase said Tuesday that he could see moving around in the Bengals offense, lining up at different receiver spots on the outside and perhaps even in the backfield. Such diversity could benefit him, Tee Higgins, Tyler Boyd and Joe Mixon.
“I feel like that would be big for the offense,” Chase said. “That might help Tee get the ball more. I might get the ball more. TB might get the ball more. Mixon. So it moves a lot of people around in the offense. Tee gotta move, too, if I move. It just keeps everybody versatile. I want to see Tee in the slot. He doesn’t like the slot as much, but we can always get routes for him in the slot, just to open his game up more, as well as mine. I can’t wait until we start tryin’it. I’ve been tryin’ to get Tee to move without the play even being called ‘move,’ so I’ve just been trying to get his mind flowing in different spots just to get it going.”
Chase is still thinking about that AFC Championship game in Kansas City, where the Bengals came close to their second straight Super Bowl appearance. When Hayden Hurst caught a pass for a first down on Cincinnati’s final drive, Chase allowed himself to dream a bit.
“That’s how I felt. After Hayden caught that pass, I was like ‘Shit, we’re about to actually score and go to the Super Bowl again.’ I caught that pass (35 yards early fourth quarter) and it was like ‘Ah, shit. We’re really here. Let’s just get it done.’ That’s what I said in the huddle, actually, I said ‘Let’s just finish it and get the F outta here.’ It was close to endin’, but it happens to the best.”
Tee Higgins, sporting his brand new No. 5 on the practice field and catching bombs from Joe Burrow, chose to come to Cincinnati for Phase 2 and get his work in with his quarterback and teammates. He is currently waiting on his agent David Mulugheta of Athletes First to try and work out an extension with the Bengals. That may or may not come before the beginning of the season. But Higgins made it clear, working out and trying to be ready for another Super Bowl run is priority No. 1.
“To be honest with you I’m here to get work in,” Higgins said. “At the end of the day I love the game. Whatever happens with my contract happens. I’m not worried that right now. Hopefully we can get something done soon. Right now I’m just here to work.”
Working 9-5 ?
(we've been waiting to say this)
— Cincinnati Bengals (@Bengals) May 16, 2023
Higgins is clearly inspired by a quarterback who is willing to make some sacrifices in his own deal to help keep him and Chase as weapons on the offense.
“It just tells everybody he wants to keep his weapons around,” Higgins added. “Hopefully, we can do that and keep building from here. Obviously, we (Higgins, Chase and Burrow) talk about staying together for the long run. Hopefully we can do that and get something negotiated to where they can keep all three of us.
“I keep my head clear and try not to worry about contract stuff. I’m just trying to better my game…because at the end of day I’m here to play football. Obviously I want to make money, but at the end of the day I’m here to play the game I love. We’re like this now (crosses fingers). I can’t ask for a better connection than all of us got with Joe, me, Tyler and Chase. You can’t ask for nothing better.”