The Bengals have shifted into offseason mode and that means quarterback Joe Burrow returned to the podium Monday to offer an update on his throwing wrist before Paycor Stadium shuts down until the spring's offseason workouts.
He's not sure because it's still less than two months after surgery, but he thinks he'll be throwing by then after the Nov. 20 procedure to repair a ligament. He thinks it's going to be another couple of months before he can grip to lift weights.
But other than that, Burrow has been full bore while his teammates have been in the thick of their playoff bid.
"Lifting legs, doing a lot of core, doing the upper body where we can," Burrow said. "It's tough without being able to grab or do anything like that. But we're modifying it in ways that keep me in good physical shape, and just going to keep getting better as the wrist gets better too."
Burrow strained his calf on a rollout during the second practice of the 2023 training camp that cost him the next 34 days and he indicated he may tweak some of his offseason regimen.
"Maybe the weeks leading up to training camp, maybe that'll be something that I decide as we get closer depending on how my body's feeling," Burrow said. "But we'll take that a step at a time."
_Leave it Burrow to fully capture the 2023 season in one brief, succinct Burrowian:
"It was a weird year," Burrow said. "It never really felt like we really reached our potential to what we were. Obviously, (my) injury happened right where we usually start to take that jump in the year where we have in years past. It was a tough year."
But there was also that marvelous four-game winning streak (49ers, Bills) ended by a Paycor loss to eventual AFC South champ Houston and they didn't have a shot to rebound because Burrow walked off the field in Baltimore four days later after flipping a touchdown pass to give the Bengals, a 10-7 lead, a snap after he got hurt late in the second quarter.
"That five-week stretch, I think we were playing some pretty good ball," Burow said. "The Houston game was a step back as a team. And then going into Baltimore, I felt really good about where we were. Obviously, it didn't play out the way we wanted it to."
_Head coach Zac Taylor's staff conducted exit interviews Monday and they had a good place to start. For the second time in three years they had the second fewest penalties in the league with 76. They had the fewest penalty yards and this year they tied the Cowboys for the second fewest giveaways with 16.
"The penalties are something that's sometimes out of your control, but there are a lot of things you can control and our guys do that. With some of the procedural stuff we take a lot of pride in how we control that," Taylor said. "I think (Sunday) was reflective of that, doing a great job with our cadence (Cleveland had five neutral zone infractions) and getting some free plays and some free first downs and getting out of a minus-one situation. Defensively staying onsides.
"The ball security stuff is something we spend a lot of time and effort preaching and working on. It's significant in terms of wins and losses. It gives you a chance to be in the hunt and do all the things we want to do."
_Burrow said he's going to watch both sides of the ball see to see what they can use to help the offense get better. Taylor said it's "overstated," to say he dramatically changed the offense when quarterback Jake Browning came in. But they both indicated some of the things they did more with Browning, such as going under center slightly more using a bit more heavy personnel packages, could be tweaked for Burrow.
"It brought some, some different things to the offense that we were not really able to do at the beginning of the year because I physically couldn't do it. And we were able to incorporate a little more," said Burrow of when he began to get healthy in the Oct. 8 win in Arizona. "And then when Jake went in there, he did a great job executing the under-center stuff. He's good at the play-actions and the nakeds (play-action rollouts). And our run game took a step. I thought it was a good couple of weeks.
"I think we can be more explosive in the run game. I think we've been efficient. The run game has been able to keep us on schedule. It would be nice to hit a couple of big runs. We did later in the season. That was nice to see. Guys like Joe Mixon taking advantage of his opportunities and Chase (Brown) stepping up and making some big plays. I feel good about that aspect. I think this offseason we'll be able to take a step."
As always, Taylor is going to be in self-scout mode this offseason trying to get better.
"There are things that we do against certain opponents that you do regardless of who your quarterback is. We look forward to evaluating the whole offense as a whole this offseason, and figuring out what's going to be best for us as we move forward," Taylor said. "I think we've always been open to evolving, and we have evolved. And there's been some things that have been good for us in the past that maybe weren't good the next year, and vice versa and we'll continue to assess that as we move forward."
_The challenge for the Bengals in the offseason can be seen on Pro Football Focus' top 100 free agent list. Led by wide receiver Tee Higgins at No. 4, a total of five Bengals made it: Nose tackle DJ Reader (19), cornerback Chidobe Awuzie (26), right tackle Jonah Williams (54) and wide receiver Tyler Boyd (74)
"It's hard to imagine life without Tee Higgins. Those are all conversations we'll continue to have upstairs. Tee and I talked and I have no information on that," Taylor said. "Those are things that evolve. That's what the next two months are for to get a chance to go in depth with the roster and survey the future."
Like his throwing timeline, Burrow has a good feeling about retaining Higgins, but he doesn't know for sure.
He's a big part of what we have done here. It's no secret our relationship," Burrow said. "I expect Tee to be back. I think that's the sentiment in the locker room. We all want Tee back. We know what kind of player he is. We know what kind of person he is. He's what being a Bengal is all about. We'll see, but I think we should have a good opportunity."