CINCINNATI -- Many of Joe Burrow’s teammates indicated Wednesday they were surprised when they learned the Cincinnati Bengals quarterback needed an appendectomy and would miss the start of training camp. It’s a minor setback, but one that will keep the offense from jumping right out of the gate with their starting quarterback.
Backup quarterback Brandon Allen said coach Zac Taylor informed him of the news just before a team meeting on reporting day Tuesday. Team owner and president Mike Brown told the full team moments later.
Burrow had said he had stomach cramps, but Allen didn’t think anything of it.
“He holds a lot of stuff in,” Allen said.
Taylor opened his first press conference of training camp confirming Burrow had an appendectomy Tuesday and was expected to be discharged Wednesday. He said the procedure went “smoothly,” but the timeline for his return is to be determined and the team will make sure to “treat him the right way.”
Meanwhile, the Bengals waived cornerback John Brannon and signed college free agent quarterback Drew Plitt, who played at Loveland High School and Ball State University. Right guard Alex Cappa and running back Samaje Perine were both cleared to practice Wednesday as well, after being placed on the Physically Unable to Perform list with core muscle injuries suffered during Organized Team Activities. Cappa said he “is feeling great” but wouldn’t elaborate on any limitations.
Jessie Bates also remains away from the team and is not obligated to be at training camp since he has not yet signed his franchise tender. Bates, right tackle La’el Collins (back issue) and Burrow are the big absences to open camp, though Collins was doing work on the rehab field Wednesday.
Wide receiver Tee Higgins said Burrow had been practicing and throwing passes to him on Monday, so he was “shocked” to learn Burrow had been dealing with stomach pain that actually required surgery.
Ja’Marr Chase, who has known Burrow since their time together at LSU in 2018 and 2019, texted Burrow just to check on him after finding out the news, but Burrow just joked about Chase’s recent GQ Magazine cover story, asking what clothes he brought back for his quarterback.
“He’s so tough he’s not going to talk about it at all,” Chase said. “He’s going to come back in and act like it never happened. That’s the type of dude he is, that’s the type of person you need on your team, a tough dude like that.”
Chase wasn’t going to be surprised if Burrow showed up to watch the first day of practice Wednesday. Burrow’s car was in the parking lot but he wasn’t in the locker room when media was allowed in for interviews, and his previously scheduled press conference was canceled.
Asked what kind of setback it is for the offense not having Burrow at the beginning of camp, Chase said “it’s just adversity.”
Allen, who has been backing up Burrow since after his ACL tear in 2020, will get the first-team snaps. Just like it’s his job to be ready at a moment’s notice during the season, he is ready to step in and run the offense until Burrow returns.
“It’s obviously a good opportunity for me to get a lot of reps with some guys that I normally don’t get reps with,” Allen said. “You don’t want to ever see Joe go down or be out or anything like that, but I’ll take advantage of this time that I can get.”
“We talk about how when someone goes down at any position really, there can’t be a letup,” he added. “There’s no excuse for not performing at the level you can perform at, so with Joe being out, my job in there is to keep this offense running like he was in there. And there can’t be any sort of let downs, like ‘Oh, there’s an easy excuse. Joe is not in there,’ that sort of thing. But that’s my job to keep us on the right track for when he does get back, we haven’t missed a beat.”
Taylor said the practice script doesn’t change with Burrow out. Fortunately for the team, the first two weeks is more focused on installing the offense anyway, so that won’t be affected. It’s after that when the staff starts to modify and adjust the plans, and it’s possible Burrow would be back by then.
The Bengals coaching staff wasn’t planning to decide if Burrow would play in the preseason until closer to those games anyway, and that remains the case.
“It doesn’t (change anything) because we still got a bunch of other guys that we’re gearing towards,” Taylor said. “It’s a really good opportunity for Brandon and Jake (Browning) to get more reps than they would have with different groups than they would have. So you have to look at the bright side of things, it’s a good chance to see them, evaluate them, let them work with some other guys. And then when we go from there. Then when Joe comes back, he jumps back into those reps. But those guys have to maximize those opportunities they are going to get.”