Heisman Trophy winner Joe Burrow finally squashed the narrative that he might not want to play for the Cincinnati Bengals if they select him with the first overall pick in the NFL draft.
Speaking at the NFL Combine on Tuesday in Indianapolis, Burrow said media spun that storyline based off his non-committal comments in past interviews when he didn’t want to assume the Bengals were going to pick him.
The former LSU quarterback is considered the favorite to become the No. 1 overall pick.
“The only thing I’ve said is that I just didn’t want to be presumptuous about the pick,” said Burrow, the former Ohio State quarterback who led LSU to a national championship in record-setting fashion this season. “That’s why I’ve been non-committal because I don’t know what’s going to happen. They might not pick me. They might fall in love with someone else. You guys kind of took that narrative and ran with it. There has never been anything like that from my end.”
The narrative was helped along by former Bengals quarterback Carson Palmer, who was the last player Cincinnati selected No. 1 overall in 2003. Palmer, who demanded to be traded following the 2010 season, has made public comments bashing the Bengals since it became clear they were going to get the No. 1 pick in the draft, saying no player should want to play for an organization that is not committed to winning.
Since then, Burrow has drawn comparisons to Eli Manning, who in 2004 said he would refuse to play for the Chargers if they drafted him No. 1 overall. The Chargers selected him with a trade in place to send him to the Giants.
Burrow said he would happily play for the Bengals if they take him.
“I’m not going to not play,” Burrow said. “I’m a ballplayer. Whoever takes me, I’m going to go show up.”
Bengals director of player personnel Duke Tobin said he would be praying for a lot of the "media folks" saying that the Bengals aren't committed to winning because "it's not built on fact." Tobin noted the Bengals are in the top half of the league in team spending on players and 13th in wins, as well as top 10 in playoff appearances.
The Bengals weren’t concerned about Burrow – or whoever they decide to take No. 1 overall – not wanting to play for them.
“What our research tells us about Joe Burrow is he’s his own man,” Tobin said. “He’s not going to be talked in to saying things for other people’s benefit.”
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Cincinnati hasn’t had a chance to talk with Burrow yet but are scheduled to sit down with him for a formal interview Wednesday at the Combine. Teams are given 15 minutes with 45 players they request ahead of time, and then position coaches get another 15 minutes with the players in an informal setting whenever they can arrange it.
Bengals second-year coach Zac Taylor said Burrow made a lot of plays that jumped out at him while watching film, and although Burrow doesn’t plan to work out at the Combine because of the length of his college season, there is a lot Tobin and the coaches can get from speaking to the quarterback. They are looking for a leader and someone who can elevate players around him, Taylor said, while also noting that Burrow’s reported “small” nine-inch hands are not a deterrant as reports indicated Monday.
“You (want to) hear them talk about terminology and kind of what they brought to the table as a quarterback and what they saw on tape, and so it’s just fun to start the process with those guys,” Taylor said. “You get more of a chance to Pro Days and specialized workouts to find out more information, but it’s just a good starting point for everybody.”
Burrow, who graduated from Athens High School, said it would be special to play so close to home. He grew up a “bandwagon NFL fan” of sorts while moving from place to place to follow his father’s coaching career. Jim Burrow, who spent more than a decade as Ohio University’s defensive coordinator, retired from a 37-year coaching career in 2018 to follow the end of his son’s college career as Joe Burrow had transferred from Ohio State to LSU in May that year.
For a while Burrow was a Vikings fan while living in North Dakota. When he moved to Athens in 2005, he was a Saints fan because Reggie Bush had just been drafted and he was a huge Drew Brees fan as well. At one point, he latched onto the Browns for a while. His two best friends from high school are Bengals fans, however, and are hoping they take him.
Burrow said he looks forward to meeting with the Bengals and learning more about their offense. He believes his game will translate well into any system.
After the Combine, which runs through Sunday with workouts starting Thursday, Burrow will be preparing for his Pro Day workout and then looks forward to a trip to Las Vegas for the draft in April.
“Of course I want to be the first pick,” Burrow said. “That’s every kid’s dream. I’ve worked really, really hard for the opportunity and I’m blessed to be in this position. So I’m just really excited to be in this position.”