LOS ANGELES - In the shadow of Pauley Pavilion Wednesday as the Bengals began their week of practice for Super Bow LVI against the big, bad Rams, the heat turned up.
With the Bengals looking to play their hottest game ever in head coach Zac Taylor's three seasons in what may be the hottest Super Bowl in history, L.A. baked with a high of 87 degrees with more of the same as the week continues. The forecast calls for a high of 86 Sunday under SoFi's canopy ahead of the 84 degrees in this year's opener at Paul Brown Stadium.
"Hydrating as best we can," said Taylor after Wednesday morning's clammy walkthrough at UCLA's facility. "It's just like the cold. What can you do? You go out there and manage it the best you can. We're practicing in some good heat and I think our guys will be ready for it."
Tight end C.J. Uzomah (knee) also turned up the heat. He didn't practice Wednesday, but Taylor told reporters he's optimistic. They were also optimistic enough to list right guard Jackson Carman (back) as limited.
They'd love a healthy Uzomah for a variety of reasons. His energetic leadership for one and for another if there was ever a game for multiple tight ends this would seem to be it against the Rams' daunting front. Plus, before he sprained his MCL in the AFC title game, he had piled up 13 catches for 135 yards and a touchdown in the first two playoff games.
MORE JOE: Bengals quarterback Joe Burrow is bidding to join Oakland's Jim Plunkett as the only quarterback to win a Super Bowl for a team in the state he grew up in. On Wednesday he said he plans on winning it "eventually," but still thinks about Athens' 2014 loss to Toledo Catholic Central, 56-52, in Ohio's Division III state title game despite his record six touchdown passes.
"I think about that game all the time," Burrow said. "We were so close and we were friends our entire childhood up that point. It was a culmination of a lot of hard work and that time we came up short. We just didn't get the job done. So I still think of that all the time. I plan on winning the Super Bowl eventually. I plan on doing it this week. If not this week, then doing it eventually and that state championship is going to be one that eluded me."
ON MATT: In the first 50 years of the Super Bowl, overall No. 1 quarterbacks had never met. Now it's happened for the second time in six years with Burrow (2020) going against the Rams' Matt Stafford (2009). Denver's Peyton Manning (1998) beat Carolina's Cam Newton (2011) to win it all in 2015.
On Wednesday, Burrow recalled watching Stafford play for the Lions every Thanksgiving and go through what he'll never have to go through. Stafford didn't win a playoff game until this season while Burrow becomes just the seventh second-year quarterback to start a Super Bowl game.
"I really enjoyed watching him," Burrow said. "l always thought he deserved more credit for what he was doing. He's always been one of the best players in the league for his entire career and just because he didn't have the team success in the playoffs it kind of overshadowed what he was doing as a player."
A GLANCE: Here's a glance into why Burrow has so much support among his offensive linemen:
Center Trey Hopkins: "Joe is the ultimate competitor. Whether its chess or tossing bean bags, playing out on the field, he's the ultimate competitor and everybody can relate to that. He wins, a lot, too, and that's an added bonus. He's earned a lot of guys' trust and respect very quickly. It's undeniable."
Left guard Quinton Spain: "When you walk into the huddle, you know it's Joe's huddle … You can see how people feed off him and how tough he is. I told Joe when I first got here, 'Bra, I love how you're playing and how tough you are. Some of the things you do other quarterbacks don't do.' They get rattled. When Joe takes a sack, he bounces back up to the next play. Some quarterbacks get sacked and it's in their head. They may miss the timing of the receiver and the routes. Joe doesn't get rattled and I respect that from him."
ZAC ATTACK: Taylor spoke with the world's media Wednesday, but the question that elicited the best answer came from close to home when Local 12's Richard Skinner asked if ever doubted his play-calling or coaching in the 6-25-1 start. He again noted the patience of the Brown family ownership, Bengals president Mike Brown, executive vice president Katie Blackburn and vice presidents Paul Brown and Troy Blackburn.
"Doubting, no. Hard times, absolutely. I'd be lying if I said I said there weren't," Taylor said. "There were times you're driving to work Monday morning at 0-9, 0-10 and you're wondering, is this really happening? But that's what has shaped us and who we are.
"We have a tremendous amount of character in this building, from top to bottom. Looking back on it, I wouldn't change one thing about the process. Mistakes I may have made and we made, they made us better coaches and players because we learned from those experiences. Credit Mike Brown, Paul, Katie and Troy for having the patience to let us go through that stuff and gain that experience."