After waiting a few extra months to get on the practice field for the Cincinnati Bengals for the first time, No. 1 overall pick Joe Burrow had a little extra energy.
“Everyone’s super anxious to have pads on and start getting some live reps,” Burrow said Friday. “We had our first walkthrough today. Everyone was fired up for that I think I was thrown in a little harder than I should have been in a walkthrough, but it felt good to be out there.”
The Bengals are also happy to have Burrow, hoping their search for the franchise quarterback who can end the NFL’s longest active drought without a playoff win is complete.
It’s a tall task for the Heisman Trophy winner who grew up a few hours away in Athens, Ohio. The Bengals last won a playoff game following the 1990 season.
Since then, they have lost the third most regular-season games in the NFL, gone through 18 starting quarterbacks and had just seven winning seasons.
Each of those winning campaigns ended with a first-round playoff exit. Former No. 1 overall pick and Heisman Trophy winner Carson Palmer lost twice in the postseason for the Bengals, Andy Dalton had four defeats and A.J. McCarron lost in the 2015 season after Dalton got hurt late in the regular season.
Now it’s on Burrow’s shoulders to reverse all that. No pressure, kid.
“It’s just football,” he said. “It’s just doing what I’ve always done. Continue to work the way I’ve always worked. Obviously I’m not going to get complacent. I haven’t done anything yet. So I’m going to come to work every day, be the hardest worker that I can and lead my guys to the best of my ability.”
A quick turnaround from last year’s 2-14 season in Cincinnati won’t be easy. Of the 24 quarterbacks drafted first overall since the merger before Burrow, only Andrew Luck posted a winning record as a rookie, and the group won less than one-third of their starts.
Making matters even harder this year will be the lack of an offseason program and preseason games to help Burrow get up to speed and build chemistry with his receivers.
He spent the down time in the offseason because of the COVID-19 pandemic working out at home in Athens, practicing small details he didn’t need in college like how to call out a play in the huddle. He also got some advice from 1998 No. 1 overall pick Peyton Manning and had a few informal workouts with some of his receivers, but will try to accelerate the process as much as possible early in camp.
“Everybody has to adapt to what we’re doing right now,” Burrow said. “The teams that are going to win the most are the teams that adapted the best to the situation that we’re in. So I feel like I’ve done a fairly good job at adapting to the situation. But I guess we’ll find out. We’ll see on Sundays how many wins we have.”
Burrow comes into the NFL having experienced success and failure in college. He was beaten out as the starter at Ohio State by Dwayne Haskins and then transferred to LSU. He then struggled his first year as a starter, completing only 57.8% of his passes in 2018 before breaking through in a record-setting 2019 campaign.
Burrow completed 76.3% of his passes last season, throwing an FBS-record 60 touchdowns and only six interceptions while leading LSU to a 15-0 record and national championship.
That play and his demeanor have helped him quickly gain the confidence of coach Zac Taylor, who has already made him the starter, and veterans on the team.
“That makes you feel good for sure,” Burrow said. “I’m going to have to continue to do my job. If I don’t play well, all that goes out of the window. So that’s the one thing that I’m focused on right now is playing really, really well and doing my job.”
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