Joe Burrow's rehab has gone so well that along with strengthening his left knee he's also been able to find time to tweak his mechanics and conjure up some extra velocity from his right arm.
As the Bengals head into their second week of voluntary practice in Tuesday morning's workout at Paul Brown Stadium, quarterbacks coach Dan Pitcher ended last week underlining one element of Burrow's game that stood out in last week's first three practices of his comeback.
"His arm strength," Pitcher said. "He's making every throw to the same degree he was making them during the season. It's not live. He doesn't have to avoid the rush and make plays on the move and all that. But in terms of dropping back and passing, he doesn't look all that different. And there are times where you feel the ball is coming out of his hand with a little more pop."
There are plenty of other things that impressed Pitcher and offensive coordinator Brian Callahan last week. Their observations all come under the same Burrow Generalia category that stems from elite talent meshing with gym rat mentality. That's how Burrow came back throwing seeds instead of sowing doubts.
Callahan: "He's kind of always looking for ways to get better … The guy works hard. If you know Joe, you know this is how he's wired."
Pitcher: "He's very keyed into mechanics. We have full trust in him. He knows his body and his throwing motion better than anybody. There were a couple of things he modified a little bit and he likes the results."
Callahan says at this level coaches don't spend a heck of a lot of time with throwing mechanics. Quarterbacks have played so much football at this point that habits are nailed into place. If there's a change it is player driven, Callahan says, and when Burrow went to California a few weeks ago to meet with his group he worked on some "very minor things," that have had some nice results early on.
It starts with his set up and how Burrow felt his body should be positioned. Now his weight isn't as far back on his back foot.
"He kind of balanced himself up in his stance and he tried to keep himself closed to his targets a little more," Callahan said. "Keep his hips closed so he can get more torque from his core, his lower body.
"He felt like those things would be helpful and I think it has. He's definitely got a noticeable amount of velocity on his ball … He looks really good throwing the ball. He looks as normal as you can look throwing the ball."
All of which doesn't surprise the brain trust. The work ethic is a big reason they drafted him No. 1. So they knew the sessions with director of rehab Nick Cosgray would be steady and sweaty. They knew he could work a lot in practice because he already had. The coaches say there is "very, very little limitation on him," and Callahan believes he's doing most of the things he would be doing normally.
Pitcher has daily talks with Cosgray to make sure the drills he's mapped out match Burrow's progress. There is no pitch count. There is no snap limit.
"(Last) week was my first exposure to him doing anything physically," Pitcher said. "You get good reports from the medical people that he's doing great and feeling good and that's good until you see it with your own eyes. It was a good week.
"He's able to do everything that we've done in terms of individual drills. We may have modified something here or there to make sure it's in line with his rehab. There's very little he hasn't been able to do."
Callahan and Pitcher echo what head coach Zac Taylor said after last Tuesday's first workout. What Burrow did then is what he'll pretty much do the rest of the spring. The major differences from a normal June are banning him from taking snaps under center, as well as making handoffs. Also prohibited is anyone else in the backfield when he drops back and throws.
Callahan says the Bengals aren't looking to set any land speed rehab records. Caution is more like it. Burrow may start out a period with five snaps and then the rest of the quarterbacks finish up what is left to be worked on in the drill.
"We've got three more months until we have to play a game," Callahan says, "so that's three more months of rehab and strengthening."