Burrow, who once was a third-string quarterback at Ohio State, began his NFL career under unusual circumstances at the start of the COVID-19 pandemic in 2020, then spent his first full offseason rehabbing a surgically-repaired ACL and MCL in his left knee, following an injury that ended his rookie season in his 10th game.
Although he suffered several injuries last year, including a sprained right knee, dislocated pinky and throat contusion, Burrow was healthy all offseason.
“I’d like to have a normal offseason at some point,” Burrow said. “That would be great, going into the season feeling as good as I can, but that hasn’t been the reality for three years. Make the most of what you got. We’ll try again next year.”
Burrow was throwing passes at the Bengals’ facility the day before his appendectomy, taking advantage of the opportunity to get an early jump on things when rookies reported a few days before veterans needed to be there. Teammates, like Tee Higgins, Ja’Marr Chase and Brandon Allen, had said they didn’t know anything was wrong until he was in the hospital.
“It wasn’t normal appendicitis that you hear about,” Burrow said. “I didn’t really feel much. Just getting checked out and had some discomfort so we thought we’d get it checked out. Turns out I had it, so we had to get it fixed. Not ideal timing, obviously, but glad it happened now and not halfway through the year.”
Burrow said he is “feeling better every day” but he lost some weight and is still working on getting his strength back by putting in some extra time in the weight room. He declined to say how much weight he lost but joked he’s back to memories of his high school days trying to put on 20 pounds in a couple weeks and forcing down as much food as he can.
The 2021 NFL Comeback Player of the Year said he had spent his offseason working on his overall athleticism and even took a private trainer with him on his vacations. Surgery cost him a lot of the gains in what he worked so hard to improve.
“It was frustrating but control what you can control and so we’re working back to get to that point,” Burrow said. “Not quite there, but we got three weeks left to get my strength, my speed and my athleticism back to where it was before.”
As for the surgery and recovery, Burrow said he didn’t know what to expect going into it. He just followed the doctors’ orders as far as his timeline for getting back to practice, but while he was in the hospital all he could do was sleep and try to manage the pain. He was able to begin throwing after two weeks and was seen lightly tossing in practice last Wednesday, then sprinting before Friday’s preseason opener.
Up to that point, he was in the building and out watching practices whenever he could be, which was important to at least stay connected to his teammates and coaches.
“I think (it was important), just more so for mentally for me to just kind of get back into the swing of things,” Burrow said. “You’re in a hospital for however many days and you start to feel like a sick person. So you want to get back out with the guys and feel healthy again.”
Burrow said he lost some muscle in his core where they cut into him, and he wasn’t feeling like he had as much juice on his throws Sunday and Monday. Normally at this time in camp, he would like to be focusing solely on football, but building up strength is at the forefront now.
He plans to participate in the joint practices with the L.A. Rams next week, which will be important game-like reps, he said. Burrow doesn’t anticipate playing in either of the final two preseason games, though he would have liked to if not for the setback with surgery.
“I think it will be OK,” Burrow said. “We have a good plan as far as nutrition and weight room and all that stuff. I feel good right now and just going to keep feeling better. … Just getting back to where my body was before the surgery. I was feeling the best I had coming out of the offseason training. Now it’s just trying to get back to that.”
Bengals at Giants, 7 p.m., NFL Network, 700, 1530, 102.7, 104.7