Bengals safety Nick Scott, one of a handful of Joe Burrow's new veteran teammates, saw him in the locker room not long ago and thought, "That's interesting," when he saw a slice of what can be some intriguing wardrobe.
"An interesting mix," Scott says. "A little on the quiet side. You can tell he's real intense, real focused. But he's got that steady leadership demeanor. You can tell the guys lean on him and respect him."
Tight end Irv Smith Jr.: "His mindset is different."
Left tackle Orlando Brown Jr.: "Super chill … I feel like he's always playing chess ten steps ahead of the next man on and off the field."
Right tackle Cody Ford: "From what I've seen so far, he holds a lot of power with the team."
The Burrow Factor looks to be as advertised as a different set of teammates gets to know one of the NFL's biggest names.
And these aren't wide-eyed guys. They've been around. Brown just won a Super Bowl with Patrick Mahomes as his quarterback. Scott helped the Rams' Matthew Stafford steal Burrow's Super Bowl before that one. Ford played on two of Josh Allen's AFC East champs in Buffalo and in his last game as a Viking last season Smith caught a playoff touchdown pass from Kirk Cousins.
"I didn't have any expectations. I'm not too big on really reading a bunch of stuff on-line," Ford says. "Just first off, you can tell he's got that swag, but he'll be that quarterback and leader who wants to grind. In some locker rooms, there's one guy or a couple of guys, everyone has given them their respect … You can see he's a true leader."
In a freeze-frame moment this week, Brown, the former Chief who split two AFC title games with him and never beat him in the regular season, pulled up a chair while Burrow sat at his locker and they went over some protection calls.
"From afar I was a fan because of the way he plays. Obviously, I don't have the best record against him," Brown says. "He's a very genuine person. Very rarely do you see someone of his status be as genuine as he is."
Check out the best photos of Phase 2 training from Wednesday, May 17 2023.
Brown has played with two MVP quarterbacks in Mahomes and Baltimore's Lamar Jackson. So he knows what it looks like.
"He's just cool," said Brown, trying to help someone searching for a description. "Very easy to talk to. Very personable. Very much himself around every single setting that I've been around. Friends, people on the team, whatever it is. As a man, it's easy to respect another man like that. When you've got a quarterback like that, the sky's the limit."
Irv Smith has been catching balls from Burrow this week for the first time and while he has found him to be "a nice guy, you can go ask him about anything," he knows not to mistake that for a lack of fire. Smith can feel the heat in a spring huddle.
"Just from being around him these few weeks, just getting to know him a little bit," Smith says, "you see his command in the huddle. You can tell he loves the game of football. It's s a lot of fun out there, but he's trying to win. That's our goal as a team. When your quarterback has that mindset, it rubs off on everybody. He's played in a lot of big games and had a lot of success. That has to go back to his childhood and how his parents raised him and the environment he was in."
Scott has dueled Burrow and his cast of what he calls "multiple No. 1 wide receivers," in a Super Bowl as well as two training camp practices. He'll be practicing against Burrow soon enough again and while they've exchanged pleasantries a few times, he anticipates deeper conversations when it gets around to scheme.
"Just glancing over there, he's got a hell of an arm zipping it in there. All the faith in the world in that dude," Scott says. "He's got it. Whatever it is, he's got it. The whole league knows that. We know that. (This spring) has definitely reinforced it."
And the Joe Factor, Scott says, reinforces his decision to sign in free agency.
"It makes me that much more excited to be a part of the program. There's a clear direction," Scott says. "This isn't a team just hoping for a winning season or just trying to make the playoffs. It's clear to everybody the goal is to win a championship. I think a lot of programs, they can kind of be afraid to mention the Super Bowl or talk about championships and stuff like that. That's what you're setting out to do. There's no reason to be afraid to talk about it or anything like that."
Scott's only surprised by one thing. Burrow plays bigger than his frame.
"He's a little smaller than I thought," says Scott, enjoying the view from the same sideline. "Not height- wise. Height-wise, I knew he was tall (nearly 6-4). Those pads, they really fill him out. But he's a lean, athletic-looking dude."