Bengals’ Higgins has fractured rib; team not considering sitting Burrow to rest injury

CINCINNATI — Tee Higgins confirmed he fractured a rib during the Cincinnati Bengals’ loss at Tennessee on Sunday, but he doesn’t expect to be out long.

The Bengals’ third-year wide receiver said he “landed wrong” while trying to make a catch down the sideline in the first quarter, and he initially thought his back was just tight. Trainers tried to convince him to stay out of the game for further evaluation but he wanted to finish the first half, so he returned to the field.

An X-ray during halftime revealed the fracture, and Higgins was declared out for the remainder of the game. The Bengals went on to lose 27-3 and now are trying to bounce back from a 1-3 start at Arizona on Sunday.

“Really it’s just up to me,” Higgins said. “Pain wise, I might be able to go this week, I might not. You never know.”

Higgins said he’s never dealt with a rib issue before but it’s all about pain management. Right now, he’s having trouble sleeping because he can’t lay on one side, and it hurts when he coughs.

The injury itself isn’t serious enough to cause concern about whether he would be risking himself trying to get back too quickly, and his contract status, being on an expiring deal, doesn’t factor into the equation.

“It’s not a crazy, crazy injury to where I have to sit out multiple, multiple, multiple weeks,” Higgins said. “It all depends on the soreness and it’s really up to me at the end of the day.”

“With the rib injury, it heals on its own,” he added. “Where the team is right now, I feel like my presence on the field can really help the team. The next few weeks is huge. Me just goin’ out there, makin’ plays that I know I can make will help the team out.”

With Higgins on the sideline, the Bengals were shut out on three drives in the second half, one of those ending in a strip sack fumble the Titans recovered. They only managed three points with him on the field, too, though. Higgins said it was tough to watch and not be able to help, but he plans to be a part of helping the offense bounce back this week, whether he plays or not, by staying involved in film sessions and voicing what he sees at practices.

Asked if the offense can still be explosive with Joe Burrow’s calf not 100 percent or if the team should consider resting him and giving Jake Browning a chance, Higgins said he thinks it’s possible to live up to expectations with either quarterback.

About 30 minutes later, Bengals coach Zac Taylor was surprised to field a question about whether Burrow is expected to start this week. He indicated that sitting Burrow hasn’t been a consideration and said the Bengals are still capable of being productive on offense with his calf limitations.

“We just have to do a better job of finding a rhythm early,” Taylor said. “There are a lot of things you can point to. We were 0 for 5 on third down in this game (in the first half). Our first and second efficiency was really good to start the game. It’s just when you are 0 and 5 on third down in the first half, you’re not taking any pressure off the defense. It was 3-3 halfway through the second quarter, and we have to do something offensively by converting those third downs and turning them into points to where take pressure off the defense so the other team can’t run the ball as much as they do. That’s really the easiest starting point for us.”

The Bengals need to figure out a way to get the offense going. They have just three offensive touchdowns through four games and no touchdowns in the first halves of games, and Sunday was the second time this season they have been held to three points.

Higgins said it comes down to executing and taking “what the defense gives.”

“I mean, (Burrow’s injury) really hasn’t changed anything, if you ask me,” Higgins said. “It’s just defenses are pressuring the crap out of him, and he’s got to be able to find some time to make plays.”

“We just have to keep believing in who we’ve got on the offensive side of the ball and just keep believing in each other and just come together as a unit and get it going.”

Burrow has been pressured 47 times through four games, which puts him on pace for a career-high 200 pressures if he plays all 17 games. Traditionally known for his accuracy, he ranks 32nd among qualifying quarterbacks in completion percentage at 57.6.

Taylor believes Burrow’s calf will continue to improve every week, and the rest of the team has to be better on the things it can control such as penalties and missed tackles on defense.

“We just gotta continue to game plan for it,” Taylor said when asked how to combat the pressure. “Again, I don’t want to give all the answers in this room because then Arizona will just do it. But again, that’s on us. That’s on me, really, as a play caller, to find ways to get this team in the end zone earlier in the game so that we can play better complementary football as a team.”


Bengals at Cardinals, 4:05 p.m., Fox, 700, 1530, 102.7, 104.7

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