Joe Burrow is back.
The quarterback told reporters he will be a full participant in Wednesday's practice, which will be shared with the last team to defeat Burrow's Bengals: the Los Angeles Rams.
Burrow has completed his recovery from his appendectomy and followed doctors orders to this point, allowing him to return after missing multiple weeks due to the procedure. Burrow spoke of needing to gain weight and updated reporters on that process Wednesday, saying everything is going according to plan.
Now, it's about getting back to game speed. He'll have quite the competition available to speed him up, even if it is just practice.
"I don't really know what to expect," Burrow said of the first joint practices of his career. "I don't know how intense it'll be. I'm just excited to go against somebody other than our defense."
The defense Burrow will face includes the man who personally ended Burrow's chances of winning his first Super Bowl of his very young career: Aaron Donald. It is practice, though, meaning Donald won't have the agency to take down Burrow as he did in Super Bowl LVI.
"I'm hoping he's gonna lay off me a little bit," Burrow said while cracking a smile.
Burrow didn't have a whole lot to offer in his press conference, and it was evident he was just happy to be back out on the field. Cincinnati is entering 2022 with high expectations after shocking the NFL with its run to Super Bowl LVI, and returns the majority of its key contributors.
An incredibly important contributor, safety Jessie Bates, ended his holdout by returning to the team this week to sign his franchise tag tender and rejoin activities. It was the second bit of good news the Bengals received this week.
"Everyone loves Jessie," Burrow said. "When you have a guy like that who is great in the locker room, great on the field and is in the situation he is in, you back him as much as you can ... His business is his business. I know he would've liked to get a deal done, but it didn't happen. He's here now, ready to play."
Burrow, meanwhile, will continue his preparation for the season, which includes getting acclimated both in on-field reps and mentally. He doesn't feel like he's far from his target.
"I could go out there and play but I'm not where I want to be yet," Burrow said.
Bates, meanwhile, will set aside any frustration he's felt from not receiving an adequate long-term offer from the Bengals, and will instead turn his focus toward maximizing his potential in 2022. He expects to pick up right where he left off when Week 1 arrives, and coach Zac Taylor echoed his sentiment, telling reporters he expects Bates to be ready to play against Pittsburgh on Sept. 11.
"I don't think that's my question to answer," Bates said when asked why he couldn't strike a long-term agreement with the Bengals. "I think it's a great opportunity for me to continue to present what I'm about, who I am to this franchise and other teams as well.
"Like I said, I'm looking at this as an opportunity to prove that I'm one of the best safeties in this league. I'm not sure why I'm not paid yet. This is a great opportunity for me to create some wealth for my family. It's not a bad number at all, this franchise tag isn't bad, so I'm not going to be naive to that. Like I said, I'm blessed. I'm happy to be here."
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