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Joe Burrow Keeps Working Even When Bengals Practice Stops

Joe Burrow: Calm After The Storm.
Joe Burrow: Calm After The Storm.

Even as the Bengals and Rams left the field after their chaotic and abrupt end to their joint practices Thursday, Bengals quarterback Joe Burrow never left where the ball was spotted for the last time.

Just moments after watching helmets roll and tempers flare, Burrow seemingly did the Seamless Joe shrug, nonchalantly glanced at the practice script equipment man Tyler Runk gave him and coolly went about finishing his own work as the field still buzzed with adrenaline.

"He's a guy that takes practice very seriously and knows the value of the reps he gets out there," said Bengals quarterbacks coach Dan Pitcher. "Maybe it was getting in some throws he thought he was going to get at the end of practice or some of the ones from earlier in the day and he just wanted to get an extra rep. A combination of those things."

What had been lost in the Twitter feeds was Bengals head coach Zac Taylor's observation of his quarterback. "Joe looked really sharp." Just 17 days before the opener and 30 days after his appendectomy, could Bengaldom had heard a sweeter sound?

"I think he's feeling a lot better this week than he was a week ago. I just think he's getting back to normal," Pitcher said. "He's seeing the field well like he always does. He's making quick decisions and he's fit a couple of balls into tight windows that were intelligent throws where he had a short window of time and a small area he had to hit. Combine that with a couple of nice throws down the field and I think he's stringing some really high level plays."

Exhibit A came early Thursday. Before the Rams' signature pressure even began to think about getting there, he quickly seized advantage of leverage that left an inviting seam and he gunned a seed to slot receiver Tyler Boyd down the middle.

What Pitcher loves about a play like that is half a second early or half a second late, it doesn't happen.

An ever better throw got lost in the scuffle. The first one. He stepped to his left to help a very nice pocket, had terrific time and threw one of his patented in-stride go balls to wide receiver Ja'Marr Chase.

But as Chase was gliding into the end zone, Bengals right tackle La'el Collins and Rams outside linebacker Leonard Floyd were going at it after the blocking was seemingly over and everyone was looking downfield.

When they did it a second time, Taylor pulled Collins. When they scuffled for a third time, this time following a running play, it seemed like all their friends joined in.

As the melee surrounded them, Taylor and his good friend, Rams head coach Sean McVay, called it off. Even as the Bengals defense worked against the Rams offense on the adjacent field blissfully unaware.

Taylor, who substituted the two joint practices for the preseason game dress rehearsal, was satisfied they still got the work in they needed.

"We got two good days of work in. Now we go play on Saturday," Taylor said. "Probably we had three plays left. Emotions run high. We've been working together for two days now and some really competitive guys get into it a little bit."

What had been a crisp, business-like exercise on Wednesday turned into steamy, grinding, intramural football on the last day of training camp for both teams.

"We just wanted to make sure everybody is healthy," Taylor said of cutting it off at the moment the helmets popped off. "And I think everyone is healthy and we move on. It's over. We got two day of work in and everybody is healthy."

Which, ironically, is the idea behind using the joint practices instead of playing starters in preseason games. After practice, Taylor can still see it being the future of the preseason.

"It's a good substitute when guys aren't playing in the games to get work in," Taylor said. "It's not a game-like environment but we get to manage the situation, so I thought it was worthwhile."

And they did manage it. They stopped it. Collins, the estimable right tackle they picked up from Dallas, has a highly-regarded rep for practicing hard, and he was going against a guy that has 21 sacks in the last two seasons.

When Taylor was asked if the passion is what he's seeking, Taylor said, "We like guys that like ball and he's certainly one of these guys that fits into that category. That's good to have in the mix."

But there's no one more passionate or competitive than Burrow. The day before he had been asked if he was ready for the season and he offered, "I could go out there and play but I'm not where I want to be yet."

So he stayed after practice. And he's getting there. During Taylor's first training camp in 2019, quarterback Andy Dalton played 46 snaps in three preseason games. Counting seven-on-seven the last two days, Burrow took about 60 snaps against the Rams.

"You can tell his mind is working as fast as ever and his body is feeling better now," Pitcher said. "We got plenty of extended work against their ones. It's not a game, but you're going against upper echelon players and you can gauge that and get some really good reps that way, so I think he's in a good spot."

He stayed in one spot Thursday while everything else moved and he kept throwing.

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