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Joe Burrow used long rehab process to refine his game

Joe Burrow’s recovery involved plenty of little steps of progress. He used that time to really focus on improving the little things.

NFL: Cincinnati Benglas OTA Katie Stratman-USA TODAY Sports

Joe Burrow’s knee injury sent shockwaves around the NFL. Everyone knew it would be quite some time before the Bengals’ quarterback would play again, but what fans don’t often get to see is just how much work goes into coming back from an injury like that.

Sports Illustrated’s Albert Breer caught up with Burrow to get an idea of how it went from finding out how significant the injury was, to where Cincinnati’s franchise passer is now. That rehab process on its own is grueling enough for most people, but Burrow took it as an opportunity to refine the little things with his game. He used it as an excuse to come back not only healthy, but better than before.

“I tweak my throwing motion every offseason and tweak my base,” Burrow told Sports Illustrated. “It was actually kind of beneficial for me, because I really started from the beginning and was able to refine some things that needed refining.

“There was some good and some bad [from 2020],” Burrow said. “I’d like to be more explosive. And I think I was really good in quick-game situations. On fourth down, we were really good. Empty, we were really good. But we need to be more explosive with play-action passes. All of our downfield passing needs to improve.”

Cincinnati’s decision-makers seemed to agree this offseason. Head coach Zac Taylor and director of player personnel Duke Tobin each cited the need to be more explosive through the air this upcoming season. The addition of first-round pick—and Burrow’s former LSU teammate—Ja’Marr Chase was made in an effort to achieve that improvement and get Burrow back to the level he was at with Chase in 2019.

“I just wasn’t accurate as I was the year before [at LSU] down the field. And that was frustrating to me, because I’ve always been a good down-the-field thrower. Just getting back to the basics of that, really focusing on my fundamentals. I just started running and throwing a few weeks ago, so standing and throwing, and focusing on the fundamentals helped,” the Bengals’ quarterback added.

As much as most fans saw protecting Burrow as far and away the focal point of this offseason, Burrow knew that hitting on down field passes was the key to really unlocking this offense’s potential (on top of making some key changes along the line).

You could see in Burrow’s last few games that opposing defenses practically dared the Bengals’ offense to beat them deep. Safeties would often come into the box to discourage running the ball while helping takeaway short and intermediate throws. Burrow still managed to complete some great throws against those defenses, but his job could’ve been easier if coverages were actually worried about getting beat deep.

Burrow’s focus on recreating his motions essentially from the bottom up should help quite a bit towards reaching that goal. Chase should make that much easier as well when he steps into the spot vacated by A.J. Green leaving for the Cardinals this offseason.

We will have to wait and see how much this work pays off for Burrow and the Bengals in 2021. However, this is just another example of how this franchise is in the right hands. While most players would be focused on just getting back healthy, Burrow went above and beyond to do that while focusing on how to improve his game at the same time.