Joe Burrow plays through a calf injury, leading Bengals to first win

Ben BabyESPN staff writerSeptember 26, 2023 at 02:13 AM ET4 minutes to read

Boro on his health after the win over the Rams: “We are getting there”

Bengals QB Joe Burrow told Laura Rutledge he’s still working toward 100% recovery on his strained calf.

CINCINNATI – There’s one thing more important when it comes to… Joe Burrow plays Monday night: If the Cincinnati Bengals quarterback feels good enough to compete, he wants to be on the field.

Eight days after suffering a torn right calf, Burrow played every offensive snap and helped the Bengals to their first win of the season, a 19-16 decision over the Los Angeles Rams.

The Bengals (1-2) were facing their first potential three-game losing streak since Burrow’s rookie season in 2020. That was a big factor in Burrow pushing hard to play in a prime-time game despite the calf injury.

“There is a risk of going out there and potentially getting infected again,” Burrow said. “But there’s also the risk of not coming out at 0-3. So I wanted to be there for my teammates, and I was confident that I would be able to do what I needed to do to win.”

Burrow was 26 of 49 passing for 259 yards with no touchdowns and one interception. Afterward, he admitted he and the offense needed to be better. However, their performance was enough on a night when Cincinnati linebacker Logan Wilson had two interceptions and the defense tallied six sacks and held the Rams to one touchdown on four red zone drives.

Burrow said he went through practice Monday morning and felt good enough to play. He said the criteria was simply to have no setbacks. Once he practiced Friday and Saturday, he said he felt confident in his ability to compete and expressed that feeling to the team members.

Bengals wide receiver Ja’Marr Chase has been vocal all week about Burrow not playing if he’s not fully healthy, and Chase reiterated that sentiment before the game.

“I was like, ‘You’re going crazy, kid,'” Chase said. I didn’t want you to play.” “It just shows that Joe is stubborn. But he’s a football player, man. You can’t stop him from being strong like that. They don’t make a lot of midfielders strong that way.”

Burrow responded by telling Chase he would get the ball more often against the Rams (1-2). And that’s exactly what happened: Chase had 12 catches on 15 targets for 141 yards, including a 43-yard completion that tested his calf.

Bengals coach Zac Taylor, the team’s offensive play caller, called a fake punt for Burrow that had him rolling to his right unprotected. He found a wide-open chase for Cincinnati’s longest play of the season.

Taylor said the decision to expose Burrow in this way came from a discussion in the days leading up to the game about whether the two felt comfortable about it. The coach and quarterback had another conversation before the play that ultimately set up a field goal.

“I asked him about some plays before, and he felt good about it,” Taylor said. “It’s a quick throw, maybe seven steps before he comes off the bench to Jamar.”

The Bengals didn’t need Burrow to move a ton. They just needed it to be mobile enough. Burrow said he was careful extending the play and wasn’t shy about throwing the ball away quickly while trying to get through the game.

Despite being sacked twice and hit six times, with Rams defensive tackle Aaron Donald recording two of those hits, Burrow was on the field for the rest of the contest.

The signal caller knows that his calf injury may worsen over the course of the season. But Monday’s performance was a promising sign as the Bengals prepare for a road game against the Tennessee Titans.

“We didn’t have any setbacks today, but it’s still going day by day,” Burrow said. “I’ve learned through this process that it can happen at any time.

“It was good to get through this stage. It means we will be stronger this week.”

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