Joe Burrow’s first game in a Cincinnati Bengals uniform is at least set on paper.
The start of the NFL season still remains in question because of COVID-19, but the Bengals announced the dates for their preseason schedule Wednesday.
If all goes as planned, Burrow, the No. 1 overall draft pick, could make his much-anticipated debut Aug. 15 when Cincinnati plays its preseason opener on the road against defending the Super Bowl champion Kansas City Chiefs. The Bengals then return home to face Minnesota on Aug. 21 before heading back on the road for a nationally-televised game on CBS against Atlanta on Aug. 28. The preseason finale is Sept. 3 against Indianapolis at Paul Brown Stadium, marking the 20th consecutive year the Bengals and Colts have met in the preseason.
The NFL released regular-season schedules last week, but also laid out some details on how the schedule could be pushed back if necessary amid coronavirus concerns. Cincinnati is set to open the regular season Sept. 13 at home against the L.A. Chargers, and the Bengals are hoping all four preseason games can still be played.
“We’re going to operate like we’re going to have four (preseason games),” Bengals coach Zac Taylor said last week when preseason dates were just tentative. “I’d like to have four. We have a lot of work to do from last season. Again, that to me is those live reps that we want and we need and we’ll take them. I certainly am hopeful that it’ll be four games. They haven’t made any comment about what to expect. So again, if we get four, that will be great. That way our guys, again, can continue to grow from last season. We need all those reps.”
The Bengals have seven draft picks and about a dozen college free agent signings who will be looking to get their first taste of the NFL in those preseason games. Coaches use those games to evaluate players before making their final cuts.
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Burrow, the team’s new starting quarterback, will need as many reps as he can get with the offense before the real games begin.
“It’s just different when the lights come on,” Taylor said. “You see them respond against a different scheme that’s different from what they see in practice and how quickly they play well under those bright lights. Certainly the rookies need those four games. They need as many as you’re going to give them. I’m hopeful that works out but right now it’s a an unknown.”
Asked if teams might be looking to arrange closed-door scrimmages in case training camp or preseason games are cut short, Taylor said he hasn’t had any discussions like that.
Some teams do joint practices with upcoming preseason opponents, like when the Bengals hosted the Vikings for a week ahead of their exhibition game in 2016. That could still be a possibility, Taylor said, but it’s not in the works right now.
“A lot of times that’s arranged back in February,” Taylor said. “As of right now we’re not arranged to practice with any teams. Sometimes when the schedule comes out you start to reach out to some of those coaches if you see something that fits for them. But I haven’t heard anything in regards to not being able to practice with somebody else.”
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