All is right in Bengaldom.
In a span of 11 days and two news conferences, Joe Burrow has gone from being hesitant in the pocket to having a pocket full of what he calls his "old self."
That's all he needed.
And a couple of bags.
"Ten more practices," Burrow said when asked of the difference between Wednesday and Aug. 7. "Getting more reps. Like I've said before, no one was panicked, I wasn't panicked. Just took more reps. Coming off a bad injury, haven't played for a while, now we're back to normal 10 practices later. We're good to go."
It will be recalled that 11 days ago, Burrow was struggling early in training camp and admitted he just didn't have his signature pocket confidence. That's when he revealed he had asked the coaches to start crowding him in the pocket in an effort to re-discover the timing. Now offensive coordinator Brian Callahan and quarterbacks coach Dan Pitcher are the most well-known bag men in Bengals history.
"The one day where we started changing that, doing it differently, it felt back to normal very quickly," Burrow said after Wednesday's practice. "We went out there early one day, started throwing bags at my legs. I'm sure everyone saw it, and I was back to normal after that."
Burrow may be looking and feeling like his old self, but that hasn't been good enough to get him in a preseason game despite his exuberance. On Friday in Washington (8 p.m.-Cincinnati's Channel 12), he'll do what he did Saturday in Tampa. After working out with Bengals rehab guru Nick Cosgray pregame, he'll wear the earpiece and his sweats while giving advice to the quarterbacks that are playing.
Head coach Zac Taylor is expected to make some kind of announcement next week about Burrow's status for the Aug. 29 preseason finale at Paul Brown Stadium against the Dolphins. Maybe he'll make it as soon as after Friday's game.
If Burrow does make his first appearance since tearing his left ACL Nov. 22, you'd have to think he's not going to be out there very long given the opener is two weeks from then on Sept. 12 at PBS against the Vikings.
Taylor could never win this one. Play him, he gets ripped for rushing him. Not playing him, he gets ripped for not getting him ready. Everybody but the coach can have it both ways.
If Burrow does play, he'll to thank his lobbying firm of Joey B LTD.
"I've been lobbying," Burrow said. "Just saying what plays I might like against Miami, third downs, first couple plays. Just throw some plays out there and put them in their head."
He's got a lot of people, including Bengals Super Bowl quarterback Boomer Esiason, in his corner. When Esiason was here last month at the beginning of camp to interview for NFL Network, he put himself in Burrow's shoes. He knows Burrow wants to play because he wanted to play in the preseason.
"I wanted to get hit. I wanted to feel the rush of the game even though the game didn't mean anything," said Esiason, who played in five of them that didn't count in his NFL MVP year of 1988. "You're still out there with your teammates. You're still calling your plays even though they may be the most basic of plays. But you still want to feel like you can go out there and do it. I hope they let him play at some point."
Tight end C.J. Uzomah may call Burrow "Franchise," but while Burrow is basically a part-owner, he knows his partnership is limited.
"You know I always want to go out there and compete, but I don't get paid to make those decisions. That's ownership and Zac and I trust those guys to make the right decisions for us and our team and we'll see about the next week," Burrow said. "Nobody really wants to play in the preseason until you get on the sidelines and you see everyone playing and then you want to go out there and compete. That's the consensus among the league. It is what it is."
His head coach is dealing with a different NFL world than the one ruled by a Boomer Generation and he's got a Gen Y quarterback not even nine months removed from reconstructive knee surgery. It sounds like Taylor knows what he wants to do after listening to Burrow and watching him getting it together the last 11 days.
But he's not saying if Burrow's dramatic turn for the better is influencing the decision to play him or not.
"That doesn't really effect his playing time in the preseason. With guys like him it's just get to Week 1 (of the regular season)," Taylor said. "I thought he's had a really good week this week. He had a really good week last week, too. Certainly I feel like offensively starting with the quarterback position it's trending in the right direction with where we want to go.
"It's a part of training camp. Those first couple of weeks they didn't go as unplanned. You put a lot of things in and you're looking to do a lot of different stuff. I really feel like this last week-and-a-half, last two weeks these guys have taken the next step and are starting to find their rhythm there."
Esiason knows quarterbacks.
"I think it would help, however many plays I would get I think it would help," Burrow said Wednesday. "We had the same thing last year, didn't have any preseason and went out there and we didn't play great game one but we went out and executed. We have that experience which I think will help me if I don't get out there."
But, the big thing is, they can have this conversation knowing Burrow is his old self.
"I see a guy that's in full command and has been playing at a really high level, particularly these last two weeks. I'm excited about what I see," Taylor said. "It's not unexpected.
"You've seen him move around and scramble and do some good plays and he's got good speed. And I'm encouraged with where he's at right now. I'm encouraged where he's at. I think he looks good moving around."
Which means all is right in Bengaldom.
Final day of Bengals Training Camp 2021. Presented by Gatorade, check out some of the top images from practice.