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Quick Hits: Bengals Buoyed By Burrow Session; Numbers In Safeties; 'When The Ball Is In The Air, It's Mine'

S Tycen Anderson runs the ball during the Packers-Bengals preseason game at Paycor Stadium on Friday, August 11, 2023.
S Tycen Anderson runs the ball during the Packers-Bengals preseason game at Paycor Stadium on Friday, August 11, 2023.

The Joe Burrow Rehab looks to be enough on track that head coach Zac Taylor says, "everything's been positive."

Before the Packers' 36-19 win over the Bengals in Friday night's preseason opener at Paycor Stadium, Burrow worked out publicly in a 30-minute workout for the first time since he strained his calf late in a July 27 practice.

After high-stepping through stretching exercises, Burrow jogged down the field. He also threw to basically stationary coaches, but he looked smooth stepping into throws after taking what amounted to be shot-gun snaps from equipment assistant Sam Staley.

All with nary a sleeve on the calf or a limp. With now 29 days until the opener in Cleveland, does time look to be on the side of Burrow and the Bengals?

"I think things are good, and he's progressing as he should," said Taylor, not changing his several weeks timeline. "Just keep progressing the way that we're doing with the trainers and strength staff. Just keep progressing that way."

While Burrow's first appearance in 15 days blew up the platform now known as X into XXX, his teammates took it in they-know-he's-coming-back stride.

"Always good to see No. 9," said safety Michael Thomas, dean of the locker room in his 11th NFL season. "He always brings the energy. Anytime he's playing, we've got a shot."

NUMBERS IN SAFETY: They call the 33-year-old Thomas, "Uncle Mike," but he was more a proud papa after the game as he beamed at the safety position, where the lone Bengals starter making Friday's game excelled, as did two backup safeties.

Tycen Anderson, who last played a game before Friday in last year's preseason finale when he got hurt, had two interceptions, one a 43-yard pick-six.

In his NFL debut, rookie Jordan Battle knocked down a pass at the goal line and had a tackle for a loss.

Dax Hill, the starting safety who started, had a spectacular pass defensed on the first series of the game that conjured up last season's last play in New Orleans. Instead of Andy Dalton, it was Packers quarterback Jordan Love going deep for wide receiver Christian Watson and, like he did against Dalton, Hill ranged from centerfield to the sideline to sweep away the pass.

"That's what Dax can do, he can make that play," Thomas said. "I'm proud of these guys. Really proud of Tycen. I've had that happen to me, have the game taken away by injury or whatever else. It was so good to see him finish and not just be close."

Some would suggest that with Hill and Nick Scott locked in as the starters and Battle projected as one of the backups, Thomas, the incumbent special teams captain, is battling Anderson for the fourth and last spot.

"I don't see it that way. I don't look at it like that," Thomas said. "If he can make plays and also play special teams, by God then. If he can use something that I've taught him, then I've served."

Anderson, the fifth-round pick last year and classmate of the first-round Hill, came into a room commandeered by the departed Jessie Bates III and Vonn Bell.

"Dax and I learned a lot from Jessie and Vonn," Anderson said, "and we just want to carry the torch and keep the great safety play here."

Anderson, who thinks it's his first interception since 2019 against VMI for Toledo, did that all by himself with the two picks. Battle was signaling touchdown when Anderson caught it at the Packers 43 because of defensive coordinator Lou Anarumo's play call.

"Great call," Anderson said. "The way that play developed, once those pick routes come at you, it's hard to travel through there. Coach Lou called for the DBs to help each other."

Then late in the first half, the 6-2, 209-pound Anderson simply undercut the route of 6-5, 259-pound tight end Tucker Kraft and ripped it out of his arms.

"Last year was just crazy," said Andrson, who couldn't overcome soft tissue injuries. "I didn't want to be behind because I didn't take advantage of those times I wasn't playing or practicing. I wanted to take advantage of every moment in the building. Studying plays, meeting with the DBs, trying to make myself better."

Hill looked on in approval.

"I felt like that just kind of lit a fire under him," said Hill of last year's absence. "Because he missed all of last year doesn't mean he can't rebound and recover how he was as a football player. That was on full display."

Anderson is keeping the pick-six ball, his parents are getting the other one.

DAX DAY: Hill had no problems being the only starter playing. He may be the starter in his second season, but he only had 131 snaps in 2022 and about half of those were at nickel corner.

"I think so," said Hill, when asked if he needs the reps. "I feel like I never want to be a player to say I've arrived. There are things I want to prove to myself and to the people around me. I feel I'm the best player out there when I'm out there."

JORDAN BATTLES: Battle, the third-rounder from Alabama, hasn't played much this camp because of hamstring problems. He came into camp overweight, but says he only needs to lose two to three pounds and "I feel great."

The big reason they picked him is because of his almost savant nature with his study of the game. It could be seen on the pass defensed at the goal line.

"We were playing quarters and they ran a quarters-beater. The tight end ran a seam route," Battle said. "I had to match it."

SLANTS AND SCREENS: Sixth-round wide receiver Andrei Iosivas did it all in his debut. He was the Bengals' leading receiver with 50 yards on four catches while also playing plenty of gunner on the punt team and cover guy on the kickoff team.

"By my last gunner rep, both my legs were cramping, but that's part of the preseason life," said Iosivas, who had never played teams in a game in his life before Friday. "You're so anxious to make plays that you're rushing things. I've got to learn to let things develop … I could have got better position on one kick. On those I have to learn to have them come to me a little bit."

The 6-3, 205-pound Iosivas is a rugged Ivy Leaguer. He specializes in making body catches and he nearly made the play of the game on one. On third-and-17, quarterback Trevor Siemian threw it for him in the end zone while he was working one-on-one on Green Bay cornerback William Hooper, all of 5-10, 180. Iosivas snatched it at the point and came down with one foot in and the other foot half on the line and half out.

"I just have to work on leverage, but when the ball is in the air, it's mine," Iosivas said. "I can learn from that play and leverage my body better. Next time, I'll make that play." …

Running back Chase Brown, the fifth-rounder, was as advertised. He's got the quicks and elusiveness that got him a 21-yard gain and at 5-10, 211 pounds, he gutted up a third-and-one conversion.

"It's surreal. My first NFL game being a home game, especially with a great crowd, a great energy," Brown said. "I think back on where I came from back in Canada, playing house league football with my brother and running out there and onto an NFL field playing against the Packers. It was a lot to take in in one moment. But what I'm looking forward to most is just learning from this tape and going into next week a lot better than we were this game." …

Packers cornerback Carrington Valentine, a Cincinnati Moeller guy, had a night as Green Bay's leading tackler (four) along with an interception and two other passes defensed.

"My friends, family were all here. I grew up watching Bengals games, so coming here and playing against them felt good," Valentine said …

It looks like the Bengals dodged injuries that would take significant time to heal with tight end Tanner Hudson (concussion), linebacker Joe Bachie (chest), and safety Yusuf Corker (hamstring) …