Cris Collinsworth, one of the greatest receivers in Bengals history, made a modern-day connection Tuesday night when he went long with quarterback Joe Burrow in a 30-minute Pro Football Focus podcast.
Burrow told Collinsworth he's been throwing for more than a week from a drop as well as flinging play-action passes to a hearty band of stationary equipment managers. Even though he notes he's just half-way through a nine-month rehab with his Dec. 2 reconstructive knee surgery and setbacks could still loom, he's confident he'll play Opening Day.
"I'm very optimistic about where I'm at and also where the team is at," Burrow told Collinsworth. "Rehab is going very, very well and lifting is going very, very well. I'm in great shape. Legs feel good, knee feels good. There's still a long way to go, but I'm expecting to be there on the first snap of 2021.
"I'm expecting to play game one. I expect to take part in practice. I'm feeling really good. I'm ahead of schedule."
In his first interview in three months, Burrow revealed he's running and lifting normally.
"I can't roll out and throw yet," Burrow said, but "it's feeling good right now."
Collinsworth, NBC-TV's Emmy Award-winning analyst and the man behind the Cincinnati-based PFF, hit a variety of topics in the Cris Collinsworth Podcast featuring Richard Sherman:
- Burrow didn't weigh in on the draft debate even though former LSU teammate Ja'Marr Chase is rated the top wide receiver on the board.
"I trust the organization to do what they do and do their jobs and pick the best player," Burrow said. "I think we're in a good spot to take just the best available. Especially after the free agency we had. We got a lot of really good players that are going to be a lot of help on defense and Riley Reiff at tackle is going to help us a lot."
- Before tearing his ACL in the Nov. 22 road game against Washington in his 10th NFL start, Burrow said he felt the Bengals offense coming together as he grew more used to calling checks at an NFL line of scrimmage.
"In the NFL you see some crazy defenses you've never seen before, defenses teams shouldn't be able to play but they play them," Burrow said. "I was getting comfortable with my checks in those situations. Numbers advantage. Rotation. Checking back-side routes. Checking three-man concepts to the field. We were starting to roll. I got hurt in the Washington game and we were playing the No. 1 pass defense in the league and we had 200 yards at halftime throwing (actually 195 yards)."
- Burrow calls his relationship with Bengals head coach Zac Taylor "special," and says he feels at home in his second season working with Taylor, offensive coordinator Brian Callahan and quarterbacks coach Dan Pitcher.
"A lot of coaches have big egos. There's none of that," Burrow said. "A lot of guys are, 'This is my system. Don't make any checks. This is the way we're going to run it.' It's really a collaboration between me, Zac, our offensive coordinator Brian and Pitch, our quarterbacks coach. A true collaboration. No ego in the entire building."
Despite the rehab update, the most compelling element of the Collinsworth interview is Burrow's take on the Bengals draft. Collinsworth observed that when Burrow hooked up with Chase in LSU's 2019 national championship season, their PFF numbers on passes longer than 20 yards "were off the charts," as Chase proved proficient at snaring jump balls even though he's just 6-0.
Although Chase opted out of last season, Collinsworth said when he saw the LSU pro day Chase looked bigger faster and stronger than the season before and his 4.38-second 40-yard dash surprised him.
Burrow acknowledged the deep ball is about the only area where the Bengals' passing game struggled in his rookie year.
"I didn't watch the pro day. I know what Ja'Marr can do. I didn't have to watch the pro day," Burrow said on "He's a lot like me. He was in there every Saturday with me throwing, getting up early. He's that kind of guy. He's a great person, great dude, great player. He and I got along very (well).
"Certain receivers just have a way of getting separation at the top of the route. Whether they're accelerating past them or they get a little push, whatever it is, he's got that receiver ability to just run past people. He ran a 4.38 I think it was, but I didn't expect it. Nobody is catching him, though. He just has a great way of getting open. He has a great feel for zone, great feel for man. He's a complete player."
But when it comes to Chase or any of the other top prospects, Burrow told Collinsworth he's good anyway the Bengals go.
"I'm not watching film on any of these guys. I've just seen highlights," Burrow said. "The organization knows more than I do and will make the best pick."