The injury occurred in a Week 12 loss at Baltimore on Nov. 16, but he remained around the team through the end of the season and continuing his rehab and conditioning at the Bengals facility. So far that has included weight lifting with his legs, doing a lot of core muscle work and modifying upper body workouts to keep up his strength as much as possible despite not being able to grab or grip anything — something he noted will take another couple months to be able to do.
“Just getting back to the grind,” Burrow said. “You know, I have about 10 to 12 weeks on everybody else (to) start my offseason. So ... that kind of gives me a leg up on next year. Obviously, the throwing part will come back with time, but just as far as physically, you know, weight room, whole body, I think I should be in a good spot.”
Burrow began the season playing on a calf that wasn’t fully healthy following a strain that occurred in a non-contact injury on Day 2 of training camp. The Bengals got five games of him feeling healthy and went 4-1 in that stretch before the wrist injury. They went 4-3 the rest of the way and finished 9-8, one win shy of a third straight playoff berth.
Last year, Burrow missed time in camp because of an appendectomy, and in 2021, he was still getting back to full strength following a 2020 ACL tear but led the team to a Super Bowl.
Asked if he planned to change anything in his offseason routine to make sure he can go into the 2024 season with a full training camp, Burrow said he might just begin “laying off the gas a little bit” a couple weeks before camp, depending on how his body is feeling.
The Bengals focused on upgrading the offensive line over the past two offseasons to help protect Burrow and he has done his part —to some extent — to try to limit the amount of hits he takes in games, mainly being more willing to throw the ball away when a pass isn’t there for him. He said a more explosive running game also could help him in that regard.
“I think we’ve been efficient,” Burrow said. “The run game has been able to keep us on schedule. It would be nice to hit a couple big runs. We did later in the season. That was nice to see. Guys like Joe Mixon taking advantage of his opportunities and Chase (Brown) stepping up and making some big plays. I feel good about that aspect. I think this offseason we’ll be able to take a step.”
Cincinnati’s offense could look a lot different next year, depending on how things go in free agency with Tee Higgins and Tyler Boyd on expiring deals. Burrow said he plans to still have a voice with ownership, director of player personnel Duke Tobin and the coaching staff in providing input on offseason signings as he has in the past.
Whether that leads to current players returning remains to be seen, but Burrow went as far as to say he expects Higgins back. The Bengals were unable to reach an agreement on an extension to this point but could also use the franchise tag on him.
“I know Tee wants to be here,” Burrow said. “Tee knows we want him here. There’s not much to say in that aspect. Everybody’s expectations is Tee is going to be back. We’ll see. The offseason plays out in crazy ways you don’t expect. I’d love to have Tee back and I know he wants to be back.”
The Bengals already gave Burrow a five-year extension worth $275 million in September and also will be trying to reach a deal with Ja’Marr Chase this offseason. The question is how much room is left for all the other players looking for a piece of the pie.
“We made sure things were in place that we could (be flexible) if we needed to,” Burrow said when asked if the plans for this offseason were laid out to him during his contract negotiations.
Burrow said it’s hard to gauge what the next step for the Bengals’ offense will be until he sees what happens in free agency and with the draft.
Watching Jake Browning operate the offense the past seven weeks, Burrow saw more under-center play actions and naked bootlegs. He’s still processing if there are things Browning did that he can implement in his game, but that’s something he will look at this offseason when he goes back and watches the tape.
His time on the sidelines mainly just reinforced how much he wants to be playing.
“Whenever I’ve had these setbacks where I’ve got to watch and not play, it’s always grateful for the times you’re out there and are able to be there for your teammates and go out and put your best foot forward and sometimes win, sometimes lose,” Burrow said. “You’re out there and getting a chance. That’s what I take away from that. I’m grateful to be able to play this game and be out there with my guys. I’m grateful to be in the position that I’m in.”