Zac Taylor: Burrow’s return ‘energizes’ Bengals

CINCINNATI — Bengals coach Zac Taylor isn’t ready to declare Joe Burrow ready to start the season, but he said the fourth-year quarterback “doesn’t look like he missed many practices.”

Burrow made his return to the practice fields Wednesday after missing five weeks because of a right calf strain suffered July 27 on just the second day of training camp. The timing comes as the Bengals have officially turned the page to preparations for the opener at Cleveland on Sept. 10, but Taylor said they are “just taking it day by day” with Burrow to see where he’s at for the start of the season.

Cincinnati had only two practices scheduled for this week, followed by a long weekend, and then the typical regular-season work routine begins Monday. Burrow was practicing again Thursday for a second straight day without any noticeable physical limitations during the 30-minute portion open to media at the beginning of the session.

“I thought he looked good,” Taylor said in his press conference before Burrow’s second practice back in the fold Thursday. “It was good to get him out there. It certainly energizes the team when you get a chance to get your starting quarterback back there, so I thought he looked good.”

Taylor wouldn’t clarify what limitations Burrow is under, but players Wednesday said he was not full-go yet. He was doing individual position drills during the media viewing time, and Ja’Marr Chase said he threw passes to the receivers “on air” — minus a pass rush — and did 7-on-7s.

The workload was expected to be similar Thursday, according to Taylor before practice.

“We’re just taking it day-to-day with how we’re going to integrate him in there,” Taylor said.

“I don’t think there’s a defined checklist we need to see,” he added. “Again, it was just good to get him out with the team and calling plays in the huddle and all that good stuff at practice. I think that was encouraging for everybody.”

Taylor has been coy about how much work Burrow has been doing behind the scenes throughout his recovery process, and that hasn’t changed now that Burrow is back in the mix. On Thursday, his response to a question on that topic was that Burrow “has done a great job making sure he’s ready to go when his number was called.”

Burrow’s return to practice had planned for a while. Taylor said the strength and conditioning and training staffs have done “a great job” with Burrow throughout the rehab process and making sure his mobility is where it needs to be as he returns.

“We’ve had a timeline that we’ve operated by for a long time now and it’s just part of that timeline,” Taylor said.

Taylor still did not have an update on an expected timeline for Joseph Ossai, who injured his ankle in the preseason finale Saturday at Washington. He said he would “probably learn more (later) this afternoon.” Ossai is expected to be out for the opener and likely longer.

Meanwhile, defensive tackle BJ Hill and cornerback DJ Turner were both back to practice Thursday after missing time because of soreness, but D’Ante Smith (shoulder) was still out.

The Bengals also had another newcomer at practice with halfback Demetric Felton signed to the practice squad Thursday morning. Felton, a third-year player out of UCLA, originally was a sixth-round pick of Cleveland in 2021. He has played in 24 career regular-season games for the Browns (four starts), recording eight rushing attempts for 20 yards while catching 20 passes for 189 yards and two touchdowns.

Felton additionally has 39 punt returns for 269 yards, as well as 10 kickoff returns for 183 yards.

“A guy we’ve always monitored coming out of UCLA and his time in Cleveland the last two years,” Taylor said of Felton. “Excited to be able to add a guy like that to our practice squad and see what he can do for us over the next couple of weeks.”

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