Bengals quarterback Joe Burrow met the press Tuesday for the first time since that night in Los Angeles after Super Bowl LVI and promptly set head coach Zac Taylor's offseason tone.
"I treated it like any other loss. I went through that week and watched the film," Burrow said after Tuesday's voluntary workout on the Paul Brown stadium practice fields. "Saw where I could get better. Saw the things we did well. Then I moved on. I put it behind me. We are into the 2022 season."
_This week the Bengals moved into phase two of the offseason program, which is reserved largely for positional drills with no offense vs. defense, and it is Burrow's first look at his revamped offensive line with three free-agent starters on the right side.
"They have been great so far. Really taking ownership of what they need to do to understand the offense," Burrow said. "Coming here and give everything they have in the little OTAs or whatever you want to call them, the individual periods that we are having. They have been great in the weight room, great in the locker room, they have been exactly what we wanted."
_The feeling is mutual. This is why La'el Collins, the massive former Cowboys right tackle, called himself Burrow's "Bodyguard," the day he signed back in March.
"Oh man. 'He's all about ball," Collins said. "He's focused each and every day. He's ahead of his time. He's going to be great. Just the way he sees the game, his ability to go out and diagnose certain thigs. When you're able to see that out of a young player, you know the ceiling is high for him."
_How does Bengals wide receiver Ja'Marr Chase plan to have an encore for his spectacular NFL Offensive Rookie of the Year season?
"I've surprised myself at a lot of stuff I do. I'm so humble, I'm not fully (aware) what I'm capable of doing it until I do it," Chase said.
So he's on his way to catching 10,000 balls this offseason, which he figures is somewhere between 100 and 200 a day.
_Chase has no problem being the hunted this season.
"Now we just have to add the expectation we're one of the best in the league and we have to keep that expectation and roll with it," Chase said. "Every game is a tough game in the NFL. We're not worried about our X. Everybody has an X on their back."
_Three months and four days after The Big Game, Burrow looked nimble and fresh.
"I feel great. Obviously this is my first offseason in the NFL so I've been able to take advantage of that as far as my body and my throwing and my mind and all of that," Burrow said. "Obviously, I've been grinding, but it's also been relaxing not having to worry about if I'm going to be ready for the season. I can just focus on getting my body right, making sure I'm healthy and then relaxing."
As proof, he worked Tuesday without a brace on the left knee he rehabbed last offseason.
"It's fun. I don't really like wearing that thing, so it's good to have it off," said Burrow, who doesn't know if he'll wear it in games. "I don't anticipate wearing it, but maybe get to game day and I might feel a little more comfortable having it on."
_Slot cornerback Mike Hilton is one veteran leader who has no problems being a mentor. He plans to be one with rookie slot Cam Taylor-Britt, the second-rounder from Nebraska. Hilton played a career-high 802 snaps last season and he may be getting a few breathers with CTB aboard.
"I'll make sure he's ready. That's part of being a leader and a vet," Hilton said. "Absolutely. They're here to help us. I want them to be on top of their game to help us win. I'm definitely going to take him under my wing and try to show him the ropes."
The 6-0 Taylor-Britt took Hilton a bit by surprise.
"He's long. He's a lot taller than I expected. He has some length. That will be good for us," Hilton said. "He looks smooth and agile."
_Hilton is hoping to see popular franchise free agent safety Jessie Bates III and the Bengals work out a contract soon. Bates isn't here and it looks like first-round pick Dax Hill is getting a decent amount of reps as a safety and in the slot.
"He looks good. He's quick, he's smart. He's already back there making calls and setting the defense," Hilton said. "That's a great sign. You can see in his drills how explosive he is coming out of his breaks."
_It appeared the Bengals had nearly perfect attendance for the voluntary workout, except for Bates and right end Trey Hendrickson.
"Some guys will be coming and going, but (we're) really pleased with the guys who are here," said head coach Zac Taylor.
_Wide receiver Tee Higgins and middle linebacker Logan Wilson were on the rehab field with their surgically-repaired shoulders and on target for a return by the first day of training camp. Defensive end Joseph Ossai, who missed all of his rookie season with knee and wrist injuries, is expected to work in training camp.
"He had another procedure done to help the process," Taylor said, "It's going to take a couple more weeks, but he's certainly on track to be able to play in training camp and do some good things for us."