Joe Burrow expects to be ready to go for the Cincinnati Bengals’ season opener against the host Cleveland Browns on Sunday.
The star quarterback was a full participant at Wednesday’s practice, though Bengals coach Zac Taylor hedged when it came to Burrow’s availability to face the Browns in the 100th meeting between the Ohio rivals.
“He looks good,” Taylor said. “I think it’s wise to take it day to day right now.”
Burrow strained his calf early in training camp and missed a month of practice before returning last week.
“We’re gonna see how these next couple days play out because you never know with these things, but I’m expecting to play,” Burrow said.
At the same time, Burrow and the Bengals are negotiating a contract extension that could make him the highest-paid player in the NFL following similar deals for quarterbacks Jalen Hurts, Lamar Jackson and Justin Herbert over the offseason. A deal may be finalized before Sunday’s game.
It’s a reflection of how far the franchise has come since the dark days before drafting Burrow first overall in 2020. Cincinnati has gone 22-10 when Burrow starts during the past two regular seasons; it reached the Super Bowl in the 2021 season and fell to the Kansas City Chiefs in last year’s AFC Championship Game.
The Bengals added stalwart left tackle Orlando Brown Jr. to an offense that returns running back Joe Mixon and wide receivers Ja’Marr Chase, Tee Higgins and Tyler Boyd. Mixon restructured his contract in July, pointing to the Bengals’ potential.
“I see the bigger picture. I see the task at hand and what we’re trying to build, and in order to keep other players here and pieces here, sometimes you have to sacrifice,” Mixon told the team website. “I felt like this year was the year to sacrifice on the Super Bowl team we can potentially be.”
As for the Bengals’ rivals in the northeast corner of the state, the Browns’ quarterback situation could make them one of the league’s bigger sleepers.
It’s the dawn of Deshaun Watson’s first full season in Cleveland after two tumultuous years — first a holdout with the Houston Texans, then an 11-game suspension for violating the NFL’s personal conduct policy after more than two dozen women accused him of sexual misconduct during massage sessions.
At his best, Watson has ranked among the league’s top signal-callers. The three-time Pro Bowl selection has a 2.7:1 career touchdown-to-interception ratio.
“I’m not the same guy,” Watson said Wednesday. “I feel like I’ve improved. I’ve evolved to a new level. And I’m ready to be able to show that.
“I don’t want to return as the guy at Houston, I want to be better than that guy. I had a lot of fun, a lot of success in Houston. But I want to have that success and start something new in Cleveland.”
The Bengals lead the Browns 52-47 in the all-time series, but Cleveland has taken five of the past six games and eight of the past 10. Browns coach Kevin Stefanski said it’s unique to start a season against an opponent as familiar as the Bengals.
“There’s so much tape to watch of your scheme versus their scheme, and they’ve obviously evolved over time just like we have,” Stefanski said. “I’m speaking (about) our offense and their defense, but there’s certainly a lot of tape to look at and a lot of different situations.”
Browns wideout Marquise Goodwin, who suffered blood clots in his legs and lungs during training camp, was listed as limited in Wednesday’s practice with an illness. Cornerback Denzel Ward (concussion), safety Juan Thornhill (calf) and defensive end Alex Wright (knee) were also limited.
Bengals defensive end Joseph Ossai (ankle) sat out Wednesday’s practice and is seen as day-to-day.
– Field Level Media