Takeaways from Joe Burrow and Zac Taylor’s latest press conferences
The Cincinnati Bengals’ summer vacation is fast approaching. Later this week, players and coaches will begin a month away from the facilities to prepare for training camp on their own. The real lean period of the off-season is approaching, but the work will persist.
For Zac Taylor, it’s his first offseason after hitting a winning record and the first not consumed with COVID-19 protocols since 2019. For Joe Burrow, it’s his first offseason with work in person while he is 100% healthy for it. There’s just no time to waste now that things are lining up perfectly, and both hinted at it in their final presses before the break.
As it stands, Cincinnati has 88 players on its roster. Two openings are not uncommon for a club in June, but Taylor is saving them in case the usual training camp grind takes its toll.
“I think the reason these spots are open is just that you never know what’s going to show up there,” Taylor said. “Whether it’s the offensive line, the defensive line, any position, anywhere. These two aren’t specific – it could be – I just named the first two that came to mind but it could be anything. Don’t read too much into it. I know that’s what people like to do. But as you get into boot camp, if you feel like you need another body somewhere, you can grab it, so there was no rush to fill the 90 squares. I think it can come in different ways. And that’s part of how we use that as training camp approaches.
The aforementioned return to normalcy for Taylor is much appreciated by the fourth-year head coach, but he is aware that operations will never fully return to the pre-Covid era. What is important is to be able to adapt at a moment’s notice, as he has done for a few years.
“It feels more like it should be,” Taylor said of the offseason. “And I think our guys are acknowledging that getting our bodies back in order, doing the work for the last seven weeks that we’ve had, and then continuing through the season, you know, now we’re there. I know we’re done here in two days, but we’re not, you know? There is a lot of work to do on their own. We have to be able to trust these guys to be able to come back and be ready to go. But in many ways, I don’t know if everything is going to be normal, like it’s never 2019 again. It’s always going to continue to evolve and the sooner you can adapt to it, the better off you’ll be.
Still, it’s a luxury to have a mostly healthy roster during the initial phase of practices, and that includes the quarterback. Burrow expected to be right at this time of year, and his progress allowed him to continue to raise the bar in the eyes of his trainer.
“I know it’s something he mentioned months ago, he can’t wait to be healthy for spring and have a real spring,” Taylor said of No.9 “And I think he continues to elevate the level of what we expect. He’s certainly a leader of the attack and of this team. And he holds himself to a very high standard and expects that those around them also raise their standards. The quarterback, in my eyes, has always been an extension of the coaching staff. And that’s good, there are times when coaches don’t have to say everything. It’s nice when the leaders of the team can be the ones to step in, whether it’s with a young player, whether it’s with another player, a different position, to step in and help make a correction or help make move the exercise on. And we’ll never be complacent that way, but it’s a good sign of the direction of things.
Burrow has spent all of the past year directing and performing with a brace on his reconstructed knee. Asked for the first time about the possibility of keeping the brace for the upcoming season, he expressed cautious optimism that he could start playing without it. His last answer reflects more or less the same thing.
“I feel great and that’s the plan moving forward,” Burrow said of not wearing the brace. “We’ll see how we feel in the pre-season games – maybe you’ll put it on, maybe not, we’ll see. But I plan to train without it and see how it feels.
2022 is an important year for Burrow in more ways than one. He has regained his mobility, a new offensive line to move behind and a contract juggernaut to play for.
If they could, the Bengals would likely offer Burrow a second contract now. The Athens native led the franchise to its third Super Bowl in just its second season after a traumatic injury. The arrow points up for Burrow, and anyone can put two and two together when it comes to his inevitable extension.
“I mean, the market is exploding,” Burrow said of recent quarterback deals. “It’s crazy the numbers these guys are putting up, I think it’s well deserved – all these guys are playing at the top of their game and they’re being paid accordingly. But I’m not worried. I like to make jokes about it, but I really haven’t thought much about it at the moment.
Having laser focus is one of Burrow’s many admirable traits, but he said it himself: The contracts quarterbacks get these days are staggering, and even for him he has to own real estate. in his mind. Maybe a small studio with a bathroom.
“Yeah, I mean, it’s hard to understand. I mean, when it comes, it comes—if it comes—then we’ll see. I’m excited about this year.
The guy who’s definitely worried about a contract right now is Jessie Bates III, and Burrow didn’t mince words when asked about his teammate.
“Jessie is a big part of this team,” Burrow said. “You can put a price tag on what he does on the pitch, but I don’t think you can put a price tag on what he does in the dressing room. He’s a guy who kind of built on what we He’s one of the first, and Jessie is exactly the kind of player I think you want to reward for the work he’s done over the past four years through the ups and downs… I know he is working really hard right now in the weight room he looks great he will be ready to go as soon as he gets here business is business he has to worry about what he has to busy, but I know when it’s time to show up, he’ll be good to go.
The leadership that Burrow shows is well known by now, but Bates is a captain on the other side of the ball. The way he interacts with his teammates on defense is key, and it seems his personality has many similarities to Burrow’s.
“He’s one of those guys that I talked about being able to hang out with anybody on the team sitting down at a table for lunch,” Burrow said. “He’s one of those types of guys who can have a conversation with anyone on a team and make them feel welcome. And I think those guys are invaluable to an organization and a program trying to achieve what we’re trying to achieve.
To no one’s surprise, there’s nothing but respect between the players and Bates. Burrow even mentioned that he and Bates will be going to Las Vegas together, so this surely won’t be over-analyzed.
To end his presser, Burrow was asked if the conversation surrounding the recent mass shootings and gun control had been a topic in the locker room and if he had led any of it.
“With everything going on, if you’re not going to ban everything, you have to at least make it harder to get these crazy guns that everybody’s using,” Burrow said. “I don’t think you should be able to just walk in and buy one, you have to be able to go through a rigorous process to be able to buy something like that, I think. Hopefully the people who are paid to make these decisions understand this. My job is to play football, but I hope politicians can figure this one out.
Burrow has not been shy about social issues, including police brutality and the attempted January 6 insurrection. While these comments are little more than moderate take on a serious issue, they stand out in an environment where little to no substance can be found when these topics are discussed by players.
Not everyone wants to take a public stance, but Burrow has almost always spoken his mind.