Joe Burrow and the Cincinnati Bengals fell to the Los Angeles Chargers unceremoniously in Week 13, losing 41-22. However, the loss wasn’t even the biggest story after the game. In his postgame conference, the Bengals QB explained he suffered a dislocated pinky on his throwing hand. How serious is the injury, and how will it impact Burrow in Week 14 and beyond?
Is Joe Burrow’s finger injury worthy of concern?
Burrow took 6 sacks on Sunday. Yet, it seems the first one caused the most damage. On Cincinnati’s first drive of the game, Uchenna Nwosu strip-sacked Burrow from his blindside. That’s when Burrow stated he endured the injury, though it’s unclear if it was during the scrum for the ball or from the hit itself. When the camera panned to the Bengals QB throwing a football on the sideline before the end of the first half, it was clear he was in pain. He even let out a roar that would make the team’s mascot proud.
Trainers attempted to use tape and even a glove to keep Burrow comfortable, but he decided to go barehanded. After the contest, Burrow shared, “It was a decision of ‘make it feel better’ or continue to be able to somewhat throw the ball, so I decided to be able to throw the ball.”
Burrow shouldn’t miss time with his dislocated pinky
Hand, thumb, and finger injuries make up just under 4% of NFL injuries, according to a study conducted over the 2012-13 and 2013-14 seasons. That’s a relatively low number, and I’m sure pinky injuries make up an insignificant amount. Yet, any injury to a quarterback’s throwing hand causes concern. While the pinky seems trivial in the grand scheme of things, it can affect how a QB grips the football and handles snaps.
Still, if there was a finger to hurt, that would be the one to choose 100% of the time. Dramatic explanation aside, Burrow isn’t going to miss any time. Dislocated fingers can be extremely painful, but they are usually manageable for professional athletes. Some rest and a splint should reduce any swelling and stabilize the joint. Typically, the injury takes 3-6 weeks to fully heal, so Burrow may feel discomfort for a while, but nothing that will keep him out of games.
The Bengals are in the thick of the AFC playoff race
That’s good news for a Cincinnati team that desperately needs their QB to not only play but play well down the stretch. The Bengals are 7-5 and the sixth seed in a crowded AFC. Cincinnati controls their own destiny with games against the 49ers, Broncos, Ravens, Chiefs, and Browns on tap.
Burrow has thrown for 3,135 yards and 23 touchdowns through 12 games in 2021. His poise under center is incredible, especially when considering he is just over a year removed from a gruesome ACL tear.
Quick side note — do you know why Bengals fans chant and tweet “Who Dey”? I know I didn’t before a quick Google search. It’s apparently short for the full chant, “Who dey, who dey, who dey think gonna beat dem Bengals?” The more you know!
Statistical output in 2021
While maintaining the same average depth of target (8.9) from his rookie campaign, Burrow has increased his completion rate from 65.3% to 68.3%. Additionally, he’s boosted his yards per attempt from 6.7 to 8.3. He’s even almost doubled his touchdown rate from 3.1% to 6.2%. Nevertheless, where there are positives, there are also negatives.
Burrow has thrown a league-leading 14 interceptions this year. It’s not that he has put the ball in harm’s way more than he did last year, but defenders are coming up with the picks rather than the ill-advised passes falling safely to the turf.
Further complicating matters is the offensive line. Although the unit as a whole has improved from last year, they still aren’t great. They’ve allowed the fourth-most sacks in the league (36), though Burrow isn’t helping. He’s converting pressures into sacks at one of the highest rates in the NFL.
There are few excuses for Burrow and the offense
Regardless, Burrow has the weapons to tear defenses apart. From Joe Mixon at running back to the three-headed monster of Tee Higgins, Tyler Boyd, and Ja’Marr Chase at receiver, the Bengals have no shortage of talent. Chase, in particular, has been a revelation, opening up the deep passing game despite his drop issues.
Pinky or not, Burrow can lead this team to a postseason berth. But if he wants to give Cincinnati their first playoff win since 1991 (the longest drought in the NFL), he needs to take care of the football.
Burrow injury update
Additional analysis by PFN Insider Adam Beasley on Wednesday, December 8.
Burrow told reporters Wednesday that he expects to play Sunday against the San Francisco 49ers, but the game will certainly be a different feel for him. He will try out a glove in practice this week after electing not to wear one when he got hurt. Burrow said the pinky bothers him “if it gets hit,” but added, “it’s getting better every day.” He explained that he’ll need to grip the ball a little harder than normal.
The swelling is better now than it was Sunday when discomfort surely played a role in him completing just 60% of his passes and throwing 2 interceptions. Still, Burrow went over 300 yards and had the Bengals in the game going into the fourth quarter.
“I thought I threw it well,” Burrow continued. “Obviously there were more issues that needed to be addressed. I don’t think it [pinky] hampered my ability to execute the way I needed to.”