Joe Burrow Survives Scare, and Bengals Are Better Prepared To Handle However Long He Misses

The collective breath of Cincinnati was held Thursday when Bengals QB Joe Burrow suffered an injury during practice, but his initial outlook appears positive.

What started with audible gasps ended with hurricane-force exhales around Cincinnati and beyond Thursday evening when tests on Bengals quarterback Joe Burrow’s injured left leg, per a team source, revealed just a calf strain.

Joe Burrow Receives Positive News on Injury, Team Is Prepared for His Absence

After being evaluated by trainers and doctors, Burrow attended his regular post-practice meetings and left Paycor Stadium at the same time as the rest of his teammates were filing out around 7:45 p.m.

How much time Burrow will miss is yet to be determined, but whatever it ends up being will feel like a come-from-behind, last-second win after the initial sight of him crumpling to the ground and complete lack of any sound afterward.

Non-contact injuries, such as the one Burrow suffered, often can be the most devastating. But this one is not believed to be serious. Burrow had just started sprinting to his right after being flushed from the pocket. He took three steps, grimaced, and began hopping on his left foot before going to the ground, drawing what center Ted Karras said was “multiple audible gasps” from a group of men who engage in hours of violence on a weekly basis.

Ironically, the injury in the open field came one play after there was some light contact in the pocket when defensive end Joseph Ossai beat the protection and grabbed Burrow to kill the play rather than running past him. Cincinnati Bengals cornerback Mike Hilton immediately rushed over to talk to Ossai, presumably reminding him of the line former offensive coordinator Jay Gruden told James Harrison on a 2013 episode of Hard Knocks – “Don’t touch the merchandise.”

Regardless of the fact that Burrow still hasn’t signed the contract extension that is expected to make him the highest-paid player in NFL history in terms of annual average salary, he is unquestionably the most valuable piece of merchandise on the shelf.

That’s why the Bengals gave left tackle Orlando Brown Jr. $64.1 million dollars in free agency, including a franchise-record signing bonus of $31 million.

But there are multiple ways to protect an investment, and one of the cheaper, more overlooked moves the Bengals made this offseason could end up being one of the most valuable. That would be the addition of quarterback Trevor Siemian nearly two months after free agency began.

The Bengals signed Siemian to a one-year, $1.3 million contract on May 3, more than three weeks into the voluntary offseason program. The coaches informed Siemian and Jake Browning, who is entering his third season in Cincinnati, that both quarterbacks will get an even number of reps and have an equal opportunity to win the job as Burrow’s backup.

Browning got the bulk of the reps Wednesday, while Thursday, it was Siemian’s turn. When Burrow went down, it was Browning who took over as the team moved the drill a few feet away from the trainers looking at Burrow and continued practice.

We’ll see how head coach Zac Taylor and offensive coordinator Brian Callahan use the duo, but there should be a level of comfort knowing an offense that hit the turf at full speed has a quarterback in Siemian with not only 30 careers starts in the league, but a working knowledge of the scheme after spending a year working alongside Callahan in Denver.

“Having that prior relationship is huge. Any kind of familiarity is huge,” Siemian said after Thursday’s practice. “In this league, you’re starving for continuity, and they’ve had it here for a while. I feel good about everything we’ve done so far. In the spring, we had a really good foundation, even with me coming in late.”

Last year at this time, Burrow was in a hospital bed recovering from an appendectomy, and the offense struggled with Brandon Allen and Browning running things for the three weeks Burrow missed. It all played a role in the team’s sluggish 0-2 start that ultimately cost them a chance to host more than one playoff game and perhaps a chance to return to the Super Bowl.

There’s no indication that Burrow’s calf strain will cause him to miss three weeks, but it would be hard for that scare not to at least partially enter the equation if he still remains in contract limbo on the extension.

Either way, the Bengals should be in much better hands, compared to last offseason, with Siemian and an improved Browning running the preparations for the regular season for however many camp practices Burrow misses.

“A lot of guys are in their second year in the system,” Karras said. “A lot of the receivers have multiple years now, it’s not a whole new O-line. So we’re feeling good.”

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