Bengals Burrow says surgically repaired knee ‘feels great’ as training camp opens

Cincinnati Bengals' Joe Burrow looks to pass during an NFL football camp practice in Cincinnati, Tuesday, June 8, 2021. (AP Photo/Aaron Doster)
Cincinnati Bengals' Joe Burrow looks to pass during an NFL football camp practice in Cincinnati, Tuesday, June 8, 2021. (AP Photo/Aaron Doster)

Credit: Aaron Doster

Credit: Aaron Doster

Second-year QB on the field with teammates nine months after tearing ACL and MCL

CINCINNATI -- Joe Burrow was curious how he would feel after his first day of training camp no longer facing restrictions with his surgically repaired knee, but the Cincinnati Bengals quarterback said he’s almost 100 percent back to where he felt he was before the injury.

After tearing his ACL and MCL in a Week 11 game at Washington last year, Burrow underwent knee surgery in early December and was fully cleared for football activity July 18.

Almost nine months removed from the operating table, he joined the Bengals without limitation Wednesday for the first time since November.

“I don’t know if grateful is the right word,” Burrow said. “A lot of hard work went into that. Grateful to me seems like there was a lot out of my control and I worked really hard to get here. I had great people around me that worked really hard to get here. There’s a lot of hard work from a lot of different people that helped me. So I am grateful for the help that I had. But I also put in the work.”

Burrow was among several players back to work Wednesday, returning from surgeries that sidelined them in 2020, including defensive linemen D.J. Reader and Renell Wren and center Trey Hopkins. New defensive tackle Larry Ogunjobi suffered a hamstring injury during conditioning tests Tuesday and is “day-to-day,” according to coach Zac Taylor, but the group is mostly healthy at the start of camp.

For Burrow, it took the last month since the conclusion of the offseason workout program – when estimated he was at about 85 percent strength -- to get over the last plateau he reached in his rehab. He passed all his tests Tuesday.

The 2020 No. 1 draft pick entered the start of camp Wednesday looking fit and said he trimmed a bunch of fat and added muscle. Now his knee “feels great, body feels great,” and he’s more confident in his movements than he was during Organized Team Activities and minicamp.

“In OTAs, there were still some movements that I was not super confident in, one of them being a naked (bootleg) going to my right back out to my left,” Burrow said. “I feel really good about that now. There’s no football movements that give me any issues right now. So I feel confident going into the season.”

Now Burrow gets to participate in 11-on-11 drills and can do everything a starting quarterback normally does in training camp – except one thing. The Bengals don’t plan to use him in any of the three preseason games, so his first live pass rush will come Week 1 against Minnesota.

Burrow said there’s still some simulation he can do in practices, but there’s no substitute for feeling that pressure in a game situation.

“There’s still full-speed up front,” Burrow said. “You’re still feeling it a little bit in practice. You just know you can’t get hit. Really, I guess, I just want to hit once or twice before I go out there. … That’s kind of the way it’s always been for me. It doesn’t really feel like football till you get hit a little bit. That’s how it’s been for me since eighth grade. In scrimmages, I was always lobbying to be live. That’s how it’s always been. It’s just what I need to feel ready for Week 1.”

The second-year quarterback didn’t get a chance to play preseason games last year because they didn’t happen during the early part of the pandemic, but now it could especially be useful in making sure he’s fully confident on his repaired knee.

Burrow will continue trying to change the organization’s mind, but Taylor laughed a “no,” when asked if there are any magic words Burrow could say to do that.

“We’ll look at everything, every scenario about what would we gain out of it?” Taylor said. “If we’re going to put him out there what exactly is that going to look like? Can we control it or not control it? We don’t have to make that decision today. We can see how the weeks go. There will be a lot of thought that goes into that process and we will make sure he’s ready to play Week 1 of the regular season.”