Burrow expected to recover from sprain

Bengals looking at ways to keep their QB (who has taken his lumps in two seasons on the job) healthy.

Cincinnati Bengals quarterback Joe Burrow suffered a sprained MCL in his right knee, coach Zac Taylor confirmed Wednesday, and he’s expected to come back healthy after some “much-needed rest.”

Taylor considered it encouraging that Burrow won’t need surgery after re-aggravating an injury that first occurred in Week 13 against the L.A. Chargers and surfaced again in Week 17 against the Chiefs when the Bengals clinched the AFC North title.

However, Burrow’s injuries the past two years are concerning because of the number of hits he has taken so early in his career, including 101 sacks. His rookie season in 2020 was cut short because of a torn ACL and MCL in his left knee when his pocket collapsed on him, and he also suffered a throat contusion and dislocated right pinkie this season.

Asked about how the organization will protect Burrow and ensure he is healthy long-term, Taylor said the Bengals still have work to do with the roster but did not specifically address the offensive line.

“We’ll continue to find ways to build our team in the years to come, and again, we’ve got a taste of the Super Bowl,” Taylor said in a virtual press conference Wednesday. “We know it’s going to take a lot of hard work to get there. And we’re going to continue to work through that over the course of the offseason, training camp and next season to do everything that we can to get back.”

Burrow’s first two seasons have drawn comparisons to former Colts quarterback Andrew Luck. Luck, the Offensive Rookie of the Year in 2012, was sacked 80 times over his first two seasons and struggled with injuries after that, including missing all of 2017 and eventually retiring in 2019 after playing just six seasons.

Pressed multiple times Wednesday about the shortcomings of the offensive line protecting Burrow, Taylor remained consistent with his messaging throughout the season that the entire offensive unit is to blame for Burrow’s sacks. He was sacked 70 times during the 2021 campaign, including seven in the Super Bowl and 19 total in four playoff games, but Taylor said the Bengals “just have to be better as a unit.”

No one from the offensive line on Sunday was made available after the game, and players were free to go for the offseason after they arrived back at the stadium Monday without any follow-up interviews available.

Taylor hasn’t wanted to pin blame on any individuals, and that was the case again when asked how much draft capital and cap space will be used to address the offensive line this offseason.

“I think that we’ll just look to improve the team any way that we can and not specific to one necessary group,” Taylor said. “The offensive line helped us get to the Super Bowl. They gave us opportunities to go win the Super Bowl. Everything always falls on them statistically, but that’s not always the case. There are play calls that could be better to help put them in a better position. There is a lot that plays into all that. They were an offensive line that helped us get to the Super Bowl and gave us opportunities to win and I think they should be commended for that.”

Taylor said Burrow is not expected to need surgery on his pinkie, despite that being something Burrow indicated could be a possibility after season when he originally hurt it in Week 13.

As far as other injuries are concerned, tight end C.J. Uzomah was scheduled to undergo an MRI on Wednesday to take a look at his sprained MCL, but Taylor said it was encouraging he was able to play Sunday without obvious issues.

“That’s typically a 4-to-8 week injury that he came back and played through in two weeks,” Taylor said. “That speaks to his toughness, his character and willingness to do what it takes to get the job done for our team. Hopefully with some rest he’ll be back to normal as well. Other than that, nothing major. Of course, cleanup things that will happen with some players. For the most part everyone is on pace to be back for next season.”

Taylor said he watched the film from the Super Bowl loss just once, but he expects to go back over it multiple times this offseason. He immediately was questioning what he could have done better after the game.

Asked specifically about why he went with Samaje Perine over Joe Mixon on third-and-1 on the final drive, Taylor pointed out how Perine has been their two-minute mode guy as a protecting back. Taylor said he called the play a little later on the clock and when running back coach Justin Hill asked about switching to put Mixon in, he decided just to stick with Perine, though Mixon was “deserving of the opportunity in a key moment in a key game” to try to get that first down.

Taylor said there were other things he could have done over the course of the game to put the team in a better position, but that just makes him more anxious to get back to work – maybe after a vacation at the beach with his wife.

“It’s one of those things, you think you’re beyond it and then a moment comes back to you and becomes fresh again,” Taylor said. “But I know over time, we’re gonna have an opportunity. It really is the craziest thing. As soon as the game ended, I just wanted to sit down and just kind of shut my brain off for weeks. But after a day, all you want to do is get back to work and try to get back to that stage. It makes you want to get back there even more than you ever thought. I always knew that I wanted to go coach again for another Super Bowl and win a Super Bowl. But once you actually get there, and it goes the way it did, it’s just an immediate fire that burns even stronger than it did before to do everything that we’ve got to do to try to get back.”

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