Even if he's 22 days out of an appendectomy and in his first 11-on-11 action since Super Bowl night, you still can't Zero Bengals quarterback Joe Burrow.
Burrow ended his first team drills of camp on Wednesday in the same fashion he diagnosed one of the most memorable moments of last season's Super Bowl run.
Remember with 69 seconds left in a tie game against Jacksonville last season in the Thursday night game when the Jaguars ran an all-out blitz from their 46 on second-and-13 and Burrow checked to "a jailbreak screen," when he saw the Zero look?
It will be recalled Burrow checked to a play with tight end C.J. Uzomah in the outside spot he had never been when they repped it in practice. It went for 25 yards in the game and set up Evan McPherson's winning field goal at the gun.
That led to Burrow's emphatic, "You can't Zero," me refrain in a classic mic'd up moment.
It turns out you can't on national TV or in a closed, steamy training camp practice.
"It's all the same to him," said Bengals head coach Zac Taylor.
Uzomah is with the Jets now and the offense is just tinkering with responses to different looks. But when the Bengals defense loaded up and sent everyone on Wednesday on a zero blitz, Burrow made another check and found the best slot receiver in the league hooked up against the NFL's best slot cornerback.
Tyler Boyd vs. Mike Hilton. This time Boyd won when Burrow gunned it down the seam. Boyd got behind Hilton ever so slightly, snatched it and was gone for six because Hilton had no help.
"That's never going to change. He's always going to be the smartest person on the field," Boyd said. "He's always going to understand how defenses try to bait him or try to disguise. He knows it all."
"You can't zero me."
"He sees it too well," said offensive coordinator Brian Callahan. "He sees it, checked to it, made a huge play. He's got a knack for it and he's allowed to do whatever he wants when it comes to that stuff. It's good to see him get out here and do it in a practice period. And see him mentally back in it."
"You can't zero me." Not in prime time or 3:30 p.m. hard by a summer rush hour in his first team work of the season.
"I think he just missed a couple of practices early," Callahan said. "He's mentally locked in."
PLAY OF THE DAY; QB Joe Burrow (see above)
PLAYER OF THE DAY: QB Joe Burrow
Burrow met the media Wednesday for the first time since his appendix ruptured on July 26 and he wasn't happy with a few things, such as his weight and his velocity. He lost a little of both in the ordeal, but thinks he can get more mustard on the ball if he keeps putting mustard on everything. Because he says that's what he's eating.
But after Burrow competed eight of 11 passes in the team stuff, four of them long-range passes and three of those to his partner-in-dimes Ja'Marr Chase, Callahan and Boyd were wondering what he was feeling.
"Any guy who hasn't worked out in a while would probably feel that way. It's his body. He knows what he wants it to feel like," Boyd said. "I think he's looking good. The connection and chemistry is there. I can't complain. He didn't miss a beat."
He found all his guys. He unleashed a couple of vintage 40- and 60-yarders to Chase working against the sticky coverages of cornerbacks Chidobe Awuzie and Eli Apple and although the defense howled that wide receiver Tee Higgins pushed off, Burrow also put a long one in there.
"He came away pretty good if you ask my eyes," Callahan said.
But despite all the big throws ("He's testing himself"-Callahan), his one check down to tight end Hayden Hurst may have shown he's not that far off with his off-platform throws. Burrow had to corkscrew his body to get the play off. On another play, with edge Trey Hendrickson in his face again, Burrow pivoted away from a sack, rolled out and hit the uncovered Chase deep because he drew the play out.
"Everything he's done in that regard with drill work, you're kind of watching closely because you're talking about core muscles," Callahan said. "To be able to torque the core. He looks fine. He looks comfortable. A couple of them came out in the team period. That was good to see. I have no reservations or concerns about anywhere he's at. He's going to be the same old Joe Burrow come September."
QUOTE OF THE DAY
Burrow on how he thought he played in the Super Bowl:
"That's behind us. We're talking about this year now."
SLANTS AND SCREENS: A sub-plot to the Play of the Day:
Intense and relentless edger Trey Hendrickson brings it every down even in practice. A lot of times he doesn't think he gets credit for a sack, so many times the offense begins to take offense. Like on the last play of the first team drill when one of the defenders told a coach, "Just tell him he got the sack and he'll be OK."
Hendrickson thought exactly that on the Zero blitz, the last snap of the second team period and as he yelled for the call, the entire offensive line surrounded him and drove him away …
Evan McPherson went 5-for-6 on field goals and even Money Mac can be betrayed by the wind. A 42-yard try blew right …
The punting competition still looks pretty even. It looked like Kevin Huber had his best day: "I don't know about that. Maybe my most consistent. That's what I'm trying to do is stack consistent days." …
Cordell Volson, who led off, and Jackson Carman kept rotating about two plays each with the first team at left guard. Callahan said they're hoping the Giants play some starters Sunday in New York (7 p.m.-Cincinnati's Local 12) and maybe both could get a look against them …
There's no love lost between the Bengals and Giants defensive coordinator Don "Wink," Martindale. As the Ravens defensive coordinator the past couple of years, he said some things that rankled. Then last week he apparently got under Patriots head coach Bill Belichick's skin with his constant blitzing. Callahan and the Bengals aren't taking any bait.
"Our backs need blitz pickup work, too, so we'll see as many blitzes as they want to bring," Callahan said …
Right tackle La'el Collins wasn't at practice for personal reasons … Tackle D'Ante Smith returned for the first time in about a week … Tight end Mitchell Wilcox remained in a boot …