CINCINNATI – Joe Burrow said he didn't spend any time second-guessing himself or pondering what might have been after the Bengals' Super Bowl loss to the Los Angeles Rams.
Business as usual for Joe Cool. What's next?
Burrow said he watched video of the game once and then mentally filed it away. He is not one to dwell on the past and besides, he's confident the Bengals will return to the Super Bowl sooner rather than later during his tenure.
“I treated it like any other loss,” Burrow insisted Tuesday after his second day participating in organized offseason activities with team veterans.
“I watched it the day after and saw the things I need to improve, things we did well and moved on," he said. “We put this behind us. We lost. We had a great year. We're going forward."
Burrow was in his second year in the NFL and still recovering from major knee surgery in 2021. He led the Bengals to an AFC North title and their first Super Bowl appearance in 33 years only to lose to the Rams 23-20.
Last year at this time, Burrow was still rehabbing from major knee surgery the previous December. He was throwing, but his mobility and readiness for the season were far from assured. He sat out much of the preseason, then started the regular season while still not 100%.
This spring, he's not wearing a brace to protect the repaired left knee. He sprained his right knee in the Super Bowl, but says there are no lasting effects.
He ran the first team Tuesday behind a reconstituted offensive line whose goal is to keep him upright more often. That's been a problem in his first two years with Cincinnati.
“I feel great," Burrow said. "This is my first offseason in the NFL I’ve been able to take advantage of that as far as my body and my throwing and my mind and all of that. Obviously, I’ve been grinding, but it’s also been relaxing not having to worry about if I’m going to be ready for the season. I can just focus on getting my body right, making sure I’m healthy and then relaxing.”
“I’m sure he doesn’t take that for granted," coach Zac Taylor said.
The Bengals were slow to develop in 2021, but — without the injury and COVID-19 problems of the previous season — had a strong second half to finish 10-7. Two of their three playoff wins were decided by Evan McPherson field goals, including a 27-24 overtime victory over the Kansas City Chiefs in the AFC championship game.
“We need to start stronger this year,” Burrow said. "As an offense, we kind of just skidded at that beginning part when we weren’t quite doing all the things we needed to do to win those games that we expected to win. Just going into this year, I just expect to be a more refined, more technical offense that really maintains the explosiveness and efficiency throughout the entire year.”
Much of that may depend on new offensive linemen signed as free agents to protect the most-sacked quarterback in the NFL. Center Ted Karras, right guard Alex Cappa and right tackle La’el Collins ran with the first team Tuesday, along with Jonah Williams at left tackle and Jackson Carman at left guard.
“I’m going into it expecting that we can kind of open it up a little bit and maybe throw some things in there we weren’t able to do last year and the year before,” Burrow said.
Karras, who blocked for Tom Brady and won two Super Bowls with the New England Patriots, likes what he sees so far with Burrow, who has gone out of his way to foster a personal relationship with each of the new linemen.
“I've always said coolness is a QB attribute and statistic — and his (nickname) is Joe Cool,” Karras said, "Usually there aren't a lot good quarterbacks who aren't cool with the guys, so he's been very cool to me so far. We're building our friendship, building our relationship.
“We're going to go use this spring to hone that in, and come back this summer gun's blazing."
Absent among Bengals veterans Tuesday were defensive end Trey Hendrickson and safety Jessie Bates III, who has been frustrated with not being able to agree on a long-term deal with the team. The Bengals put the franchise tag on Bates on March.
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