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Bengals Notebook: Burrow's Trip To IR Starts Rehab; Getting Rust Off QBs; Spain Lifts O-Line

Quinton Spain (67) got the call to the roster Monday.
Quinton Spain (67) got the call to the roster Monday.

The move was perfunctory and predictable but that didn't take the sting out of the words Monday when the Bengals placed Joe Burrow on injured reserve with "a left knee injury," and ended one of their most spectacular rookie seasons ever.

"The injury will require surgery and rehabilitation, though the team's medical professionals expect him to fully recover and be back to lead the team next season," the Bengals said in a statement.

The club is being cautious to confirm reports that Burrow tore the ACL and MCL in his left knee Sunday in Washington. Or predicting when he'll be ready. Head coach Zac Taylor wouldn't say when he would return in 2021, only that he would and at this point that's all anybody knows.

There are too many unknowns, ranging from when the surgery takes place, to who is the surgeon, to what does a rehab look like in a COVID-19 world and where is he going to do it.

"Everything is a little unique right now, but again, I'm sure he will attack this thing full speed ahead and get himself ready as soon as possible," Taylor said.

And although the injuries sound similar, it's unfair to match Burrow's timeline with that of Carson Palmer, his fellow overall No. 1 Bengals quarterback who tore his ACL and MCL in a postseason game and made it back for the start of training camp and started the third preseason game.

Every knee, every injury, every body is different.

Pro Bowl defensive tackle Geno Atkins tore his ACL on Halloween, 2013, didn't get going until the middle of training camp and was ready for the first game.

In 2016 running back Giovani Bernard tore his ACL on Nov. 20 and the original timeline was he'd miss the first two games of 2017, but he ended up playing all of them.

Left guard Clint Boling tore his ACL on Dec. 1, 2013, had the surgery New Year's Eve and surprised everyone taking the first snap of training camp.

The Bengals have a long line of experience in the training room, led by last year's NFL trainer of the year in Paul Sparling. Director of rehab Nick Cosgray is in his 15th season and oversaw many of those rehabs.

So it's just too soon to know, but not too soon to know what the Bengals have got in Burrow after those nine and a half games he was on pace to set the rookie passing record and the Bengals passing record.

After doing all that in COVID, without any spring practice, without any pre-season games and a truncated training camp, the Bengals figure he can handle any kind of a rehab.

"He's an expert in missing an offseason and playing effectively," Taylor said. "So, I do have that to fall back on and I know that about Joe. There won't be any guesswork in how he handles it. We've seen that firsthand. That part is encouraging."

Here's how Burrow ended up comparing with Palmer's first season of starting in 2004, a season that ended after 13 games with an MCL sprain:

  • Burrow 264 completions on 404 attempts for 65.3 percent with 2,688 yards, 13 TDs, 5 INTs 89.8 passer rating.
  • Palmer 263 completions on 432 attempts for 60.8 percent with 2,897 yards, 18 TDs, 18 INTs, 77.3.

But of course, it was a rookie season that went beyond the numbers.

"You could feel his energy in training camp. Just amongst the whole team when he would lead the offense down and you feel it in all three phases," Taylor said. "You know I got young boys who are in elementary school and you get a sense for how much them and their friends talk about Joe and that kind of gives you the pulse of what's going on in the city.

"It doesn't take a rocket scientist to figure out what he's meant to this city so far and you just see the energy in the stadium when the fans are here and I'm hearing my kids talk, and you just know he's made a tremendous impact."

UP NEXT: Now Taylor, offensive coordinator Brian Callahan and quarterbacks coach Dan Pitcher have to get a quarterback ready to face the Giants Sunday at Paul Brown Stadium and even though Ryan Finley went the rest of the way, he's still rusty, another victim of 2020. That was apparent when he missed on seven of 10 passes, one for an interception for a 0.0 passer rating.

With the Bengals all in trying to get Burrow ready in such a brief amount of time, Finley barely has had any work. For instance, none with the first group last week, only scout team reps.

Taylor didn't come out and say Finley was starting, but you can imagine how rusty Brandon Allen is. Allen, 28, a fourth-year player, got the call Monday from the practice squad, giving the Bengals two guys that each made three starts last season. Finley lost all of his while Allen went 1-2 with the Broncos.

"It's hard to get two guys reps; it's really hard to get three guys reps," Callahan said. "A part of the reason we signed Brandon is he's got some familiarity with the system … I really like Brandon and he brings a lot to the table just as far as his experience and his leadership and his personality.

"He's been around for a little bit and has a good way about him. He really was kind of our COVID quarterback in a sense, kind of a guy we needed to have in the building and keep bringing along. He's done a really nice job with everything he's been asked to do. He's in the same boat really as Ryan. Neither one of them has gotten a ton of reps as the season has gone along and that's just the nature of being a backup quarterback."

SPAIN CALLED: Joining Allen on the active roster is Quinton Spain, the ubiquitous newcomer who has been here since only Oct. 30 and has virtually started three straight games in three different positions. Two days after getting the playbook, Spain, a six-year vet played all but the first series at left guard in the Nov. 1 win over Tennessee. On Nov. 15 in Pittsburgh he made his first NFL start at right tackle. Sunday in Washington it was right guard. And in those three games Pro Football Focus has him allowing just one sack and two hits and none of them at guard, where he's allowed just three hurries.

Callahan and Taylor aren't saying what the future of the line looks like, even though starting right tackle Bobby Hart replaced Hakeem Adeniji in Sunday's third quarter of Adeniji's first NFL start at right tackle after he started the two previous games at left tackle. When Finley came in, Adeniji allowed the first two sacks of his career, according to PFF. Spain played for Alex Redmond Sunday after he battled a bicep issue last week.

"(Spain's) been great. What he's brought in the short time he's been here has been impressive," Callahan said. "He's a pro. He knows a lot about football. He's got great knowledge of all the different things you ask an offensive lineman to do. He's got a great demeanor. He's tough, he's mean and he plays hard. He's got a lot of pride. I'm really happy we have him. He's a piece that the last couple of games we needed. Credit to him for never saying a word and when he asks to go do something he does it and does it as best as he humanly possibly can and does a lot to appreciate as a coach."

On Sunday the Bengals could be looking at their fourth straight different starting offensive line.

"It's primarily been an injury thing. Just trying to figure out who's available what day," Callahan said. "I would say 99 percent of it is just trying to find guys available to play. Plug them in when they can and go. And if it's performance-based, you address it and try to get a guy that you feel good about or you think can give us a spark and that's how you do it. As far as those guys go we haven't settled on anyone, clearly."

Right tackle, Callahan indicated, remains to play out. Hart was an emergency option after he missed the last two games with a knee injury and would no doubt love to play against his old Giants team.

"We called on Bobby to help at the end there and come in and he did fine when he came in," Callahan said. "There wasn't much left at that point. It was just to try to help settle (us) down a little bit and he did that. Bobby's really had a solid year for us particularly in pass protection."