Burrow was estimated as a full participant Wednesday when the team released its injury report before a walkthrough practice, and he was in pads and throwing during the media viewing portion of practice Thursday. The Bengals (1-2) travel to play the Tennessee Titans (1-2) on Sunday.
“I was definitely not moving like I normally do (Monday), that’s for sure, but it’s gonna continue to get better, and I’ll be able to move around more and more,” Burrow said Wednesday. “I was feeling really good, so I’m hoping on Sunday I’ll be able to do a little more of it.”
Burrow seemed to grow more comfortable as the game went on, and offensive coordinator Brian Callahan said the staff checked with him at halftime to see if he felt good enough to start moving around more.
The Bengals opened up the playbook a bit and got their biggest play of the season on a 43-yard naked bootleg pass to Ja’Marr Chase, who last week said he believed the offense could still be explosive even if Burrow has to stay in the pocket. Burrow showed he could do both. Without moving much, he had a 38-yard pass to Tee Higgins in the first half that was negated by an offensive pass interference call.
“We’re confident in our abilities to make those plays,” Burrow said. “We’ve got to start faster. We can’t hurt ourselves. We got to put ourselves in better down-and-distances that enable us to make those plays. And you got to take those opportunities when they present themselves. We hadn’t taken those opportunities yet so we’re going to continue to grow and improve every day.”
A calf injury can take up to eight weeks to fully heal. Burrow took five weeks off from practices when he initially strained it July 27, and it doesn’t appear he plans to take any more time off as long as he doesn’t face setbacks.
The fourth-year quarterback said he still believes the calf can get healthier without rest from games.
“It’ll get better each week I don’t have a setback,” Burrow said. “So, it was big to get through Monday without having any setbacks. That means it will be stronger this week. And if I get through this week without having any setbacks, it’ll be stronger the next week. So all you can do is rest it and take time. But I’m gonna continue to play, continue to practice and it’ll get stronger through the year.”
Burrow said practice reps will be important for him going forward because he’s so detail-oriented in how he prepares for games and needs those physical reps of running through plays and seeing adjustments he needs to make.
One of Burrow’s biggest concerns while he is practicing and playing games is just making sure he doesn’t develop bad habits or veer from his usual mechanics will trying to keep pressure off his calf. He said that was why when he initially injured the calf, he took some time off throwing.
“It’s something I’ve had to think about, trying to find ways to get velocity on it maybe without putting as much pressure on that calf,” Burrow said. “As it gets healthier, I’ll be able to kind of change that. But right now, I’m feeling my way through it. And practice is a big part of it. (Thursday) and Friday are going to be big for me.”
In the meantime, the Bengals don’t plan to use Burrow’s calf as an excuse. The offense didn’t get its first touchdown until seven quarters into the season, and Burrow hasn’t yet thrown a touchdown pass to Chase, though the third-year wide receiver racked up 141 yards on 12 catches Monday.
Cincinnati averages 15.3 points per game, ranking 28th of 32 teams in the NFL, and just 244.3 yards per game, which ranks 30th. Tennessee’s offense is right behind the Bengals in both categories, but the Titans defense has been middle of the pack, allowing 22.3 points (16th fewest) and 344.7 yards (17th fewest).
“Our expectations are to go score enough points to win the game,” Callahan said. “That’s really where we’re at. And I think we continue to get better. I think a lot of the issues that we’ve had offensively, I don’t necessarily attribute to just Joe being injured. I think we can play better, we can coach better, we can clean up some of the detail things that have held us back in some spots. So, you know, our expectation is to be a really good offense, and we’re totally capable of that. And, you know, to put a blame on Joe not being fully healthy, I think that’s a cop out to some degree for us. I mean, we expect to be better than we’ve been.”
Bengals at Titans, 1 p.m., Fox, 1530, 102.7, 104.7