The Legend of Seamless Joe continues.
The Reds had their Field of Dreams moment a few days ago in Iowa. On Sunday the Bengals stayed with 1980s classic baseball movies theme when they opted for "The Natural," with their version of Roy Hobbs.
Joe Burrow, whose Wonderboy season of 2021 put the Bengals in the Super Bowl, took the field for the first time in pads at training camp just as thunder rolled through downtown Cincinnati. With the threat of lightning, head coach Zac Taylor delayed No. 9's return and practice for 15 minutes.
But when he got back on the Kettering Health Practice Fields, it was worth the wait. Burrow, 19 days removed from having his appendix removed, didn't go yard. Still, he surprised even some of his teammates in a Hobbsian-like batting practice when he not only got in the seven-on-seven period, but stayed in long enough to throw ten passes against the starters and the backups.
"I just thought he was going to be doing routes on air," said wide receiver Stanley Morgan, Jr. "Knowing Joe, he probably put himself in."
That's about right.
"It was really up to him how he felt," said offensive coordinator Brian Callahan. "If he wanted to do a little bit more today and got through the individuals and installs and routes and felt pretty good throwing and wanted to give it a go … And he just took it."
That's pretty much what he's done since he arrived two years ago when the Bengals heard the voice.
"If he comes, you will build it."
"He looked great. He's never going to lose his stuff," said wide receiver Tyler Boyd. "He made all right reads, diced the defense up. He's the same Joe Burrow that took us to the Super Bowl."
The defense thought so, too. Middle linebacker Logan Wilson, who made his first return to team drills since February's shoulder surgery, observed, "He didn't look any different."
Burrow would probably tell you he's still getting back his velocity and his timing. But his footwork certainly looked like it hadn't taken a step back in the individuals, when quarterbacks coach Dan Pitcher challenges his guys to make different types of throws with varying degrees of obstacles.
And if the ball didn't zip like he wants yet, it certainly hummed with accuracy in the third-down seven-on-seven period.
"I thought he looked good. It's a good start,' Taylor said. "He does a good job taking care of himself. When you have your starting quarterback back in the mix, someone who is as impactful as Joe is, it adds a lot of energy."
The first defense certainly felt it and they made sure Burrow had to hold onto the ball for check downs in his first couple of seven-on-seven throws. "Those guys amped it up," Morgan said.
"For Joe, he's always trying to get the best out of his guys. He's didn't say too much today," said slot cornerback Mike Hilton. "I'm pretty sure once he gets his rhythm going he'll start talking. We know what Joe is capable of. Just seeing him out here is good for us. Having our leader back is a good sign."
On his second pass, Burrow threw it over the middle to wide receiver Tee Higgins and might have been a hair late as Hilton broke it up. But he got warmed up the more he threw. That was supposed to be his last pass, but he kept going and he has to be glad he did.
He threw a beautiful go ball to wide receiver Trenton Irwin breaking into the clear down the left sideline past rookie safety Tycen Anderson and Burrow dropped it to him in stride. He turned back to the group, Boyd clapped his hand and he ended the session seven of ten.
It looks like he's ready to do it in team drills, but even with backup Brandon Allen (concussion) out, Taylor's not pushing it.
"Day-to-day," Taylor said.
PLAYER OF THE DAY, QB Joe Burrow
PLAY OF THE DAY, QB Joe Burrow
On his last throw of the day, Burrow had the defense oohing and aahing. He defiantly waited until he saw Morgan nearing the left sideline about 20 yards down field in a cover two zone and he proceeded to drop a dime. He popped it in the hole and over the arms with terrific timing in the one dead spot in the zone.
"With Joe, you've got to be ready at all times," Morgan said. "With him throwing out there, everybody is alive. He got it right in the window. Yeah, he's back."
QUOTE OF THE DAY:
CB Mike Hilton on QB Joe Burrow going 7-on-7 his first day back:
"If you know Joe and the type of guy he is, he wants to go the whole practice. We've got to keep an eye on those guys a little bit."
SLANTS AND SCREENS: Wide receiver Tee Higgins quietly took a few snaps in team for the first time since shoulder surgery ...
It looked like the Bengals suffered a significant injury with CFA rookie guard-center Ben Brown on the sidelines Sunday in a sling. Also cornerback Cam Taylor-Britt, who hasn't worked since last Monday, didn't go again …
Zac Taylor said most of the guys not practicing Sunday were getting an extra day of recovery after Friday night's preseason opener. And they can do that with the next game not until next Sunday in Jersey against the Giants.
One of those guys, he said, is left guard Jackson Carman. He ran after not practicing and Taylor indicated an elbow issue isn't going to be significant over the next few days …
Taylor did say the left guard competition with Carman and rookie Cordell Volson is ongoing. Carman played 33 snaps there Friday while Volson got 34 and "both did some positive things and there are some things to improve on." …
Also not working was rookie cornerback Allan George after he took all 66 snaps on defense and 18 more in the kicking game. It looked like he was getting a recovery day …
Veteran edge Sam Hubbard didn't go in team Sunday with Taylor saying he simply wants to give the younger players more work …
With Burrow and Allen out of team drills, Jake Browning and Drew Plitt got the honors on a day they went live in short yardage and low red zone. The offense looked like it converted all but one short-yardage snap and Volson looked comfortable next to center Ted Karras and tackle Jonah Williams. With right tackle La'el Collins still not working in team stuff, Hakeem Adeniji remained in there …
Plitt, who threw a touchdown in the last series Friday night, muscled in two touchdowns in the red zone stuff. He found running back Trayveon Williams beating safety Trayvon Henderson for a six-yard flip and tight end Scotty Washington made a nice snatch and grab at the goal line …
OH CAPTAIN, MY CAPTAIN: Taylor sent a great message Friday night when he dispatched Morgan and defensive tackle Josh Tupou to midfield for the coin toss.
"Two undrafted guys who go about their business the right way who have fought tooth and nail to be on this team for years," Taylor said. "Two guys who had little different paths but earned their spots coming up from the practice squad."
Tupou, the fifth-year backup nose tackle, just kept moving Sunday.
"I don't really look into that stuff. I just do football, man. Point me in that direction," Tupou said before practice. "I just come in every day and work and try to grind, try to get better, try to help the other guys get better … I'm just grateful to be even playing and being out there with the young guys." …