Monday, June 24, 2024

Bengals QB Joe Burrow admits he’s questioned ‘football mortality’ amid injuries

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Burrow has endured injuries early in the season and late in the season, as well as in between. He’s also had setbacks before. Last training camp, Burrow suffered a calf injury early on and returned for the start of the season, only to aggravate it in Week 2 against the Ravens. His wrist injury last season coincidentally also came against Baltimore, in Week 10.

As a rookie, Burrow suffered a midseason knee injury that resulted in three torn ligaments. The rehab lasted until just prior to training camp the next year, and though Burrow carried the Bengals to the Super Bowl that season, he suffered multiple setbacks with his knee along the way. The next offseason, Burrow had to have his appendix removed in late July as camp was opening.

Each ailment has had a cumulative effect on the quarterback, both mentally and physically.

“You always forget how hard it is coming back from injury — that’s every time it happens,” Burrow said. “There’s always peaks where you’re like, ‘I’m feeling great,’ and then a couple of months later you have a couple of days where it’s like, ‘Man, I’m not feeling that great.’ In the past I pushed through that and caused problems for myself, and this year I’m not doing that.”

What has made this new perspective so difficult, Burrow said, is that conquering rehab has empowered him in the past.

“Whenever you fight through adversity and come out on the other side it definitely gives you a feeling of invincibility at times,” he said. “But obviously, you know that is not the case. So, it’s always a balancing act.”

Signing a five-year, $275 million extension in September gave Burrow the financial security he desired, but it hasn’t made him feel invincible — quite the opposite. On the flip side, Burrow knows that the Bengals and fans expect even more from him, and he’s been a huge reason for their success.

In the two seasons where Burrow hasn’t missed more than one game, the Bengals went 10-7 and 12-4, reaching the Super Bowl and AFC Championship Game. In the other two, injury-marred seasons, the Bengals have gone 4-11-1 and 9-8, missing the postseason both times.

Burrow’s resilience has never been challenged in the past, but his instinct for self-preservation has. If we take Burrow at his word, that’s all changed. His modified goal now will be striking the balance between being smart and being tough as a way of keeping him as healthy and upright as long as possible.

“That’s what this offseason has been about for me,” Burrow said. “It’s not pushing through some things I’ve pushed through in the past. I’ve always prided myself on my mental toughness to be able to push through pain and push through those injuries, and so that’s kind of been my growth this offseason is taking a step back and understanding my value to the organization and the team.”

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