Burrow did not participate in practice Thursday, aside from some easy tossing during warmups as the team ramped up preparations for the matchup with the opponent that beat the Bengals in Super Bowl LVI. After light stretching, he watched backups Jake Browning and Will Grier take all the throws during the media viewing window of the practice.
“I think we’ll just take it day to day and see where we get to,” Taylor said before practice, not even offering a hint as to how long the team would wait before making that call.
Burrow said he was feeling a little better Thursday, “not as sore,” and he is preparing as though he is going to play Monday, but with the “we’ll see” uncertainty tacked on.
The fourth-year quarterback was wearing a compression sleeve to help control swelling on the right calf he “tweaked” on his second to last throw in Sunday’s loss to the Ravens. He reaggravated an injury that originally occurred July 27 and kept him out of training camp and practices until less than two weeks before the opener.
Asked whether he needs to be a full participant in practice before he could play again, Burrow said that isn’t necessarily the case if he feels good about the progress he’s made.
“Just feel confident that I would be able to go out and do the job that I need to do to help us win,” Burrow said. “I don’t know. We’ll see.”
“I’m preparing like I’m going to go out and play a Monday Night Football game,” he added. “Whether that happens, I don’t know but I’m going to be prepared to.”
That decision might not be up to Burrow, but so far, there haven’t been any conversations about shutting things down to allow complete healing. Both Taylor and Burrow said they are “taking it day by day.”
Teammates like Ja’Marr Chase on Monday and Tee Higgins on Thursday said they would rather Burrow be absolutely sure he is healed before coming back, but Burrow is doing what he can to speed up that process, including soft tissue massage, rest, good diet and modalities. He also is staying engaged with his teammates so they can keep working on communication and talking through some of the things that have impacted an 0-2 start.
Burrow said he is good about “compartmentalizing what’s important,” so he wouldn’t think about the long-term impact of re-injury if he does play, but that is something in mind throughout the week. He’s also battling a sense of urgency to get back and help the team to its first win following the slow start to the season.
“It’s in my head for sure,” Burrow said. “I’m thinking about it.”
In the meantime, the Bengals are preparing for the possibility Jake Browning starts Monday. Taylor noted it’s too early to consider Will Grier in the mix as the backup to Burrow because of how late he joined the team, already missing the offense installation phase.
Browning, who spent the last two years on the practice squad, beat Trevor Siemian for the backup job in camp and Grier was brought in as a third option after cuts were made. After not really having a chance to compete for a backup role in the past while Brandon Allen clearly had that job, Browning said he gained a boost of confidence making the 53-man roster this year and he will be ready if called upon.
“It’s my job to be prepared if Joe goes down, and so really for me, the week is no different,” Browning said. “Obviously, this part is a little different (doing interviews), but other than that, even when I was on P-squad (practice squad), I knew there was zero chance of me playing but I was fully prepared and I would go through the whole gameplan like I was going to be the backup, like I had a chance of playing. It’s my job to be ready if Joe goes down, and I’m in my third week of doing that.”
Taylor said if Browning plays Monday, there would be important conversations regarding the game plan to make sure he’s comfortable, whether it’s the full plan it would be with Burrow or a scaled-down version.
While confident in Browning, Taylor didn’t downplay the adversity the Bengals would be facing with a backup on the field.
“That’s a challenge,” Taylor said. “When you don’t have your starting quarterback that’s a challenge. But again, when you’ve invested time and effort into Jake and Jake’s matched that, the guys on our 53-man roster are here for a reason. We believe in them. We know we’re gonna call upon everybody at some point and the quarterback position is no different.”
Rams at Bengals, 8:15 p.m., ESPN, 700, 1530, 102.7, 104.7