Bengals QB Joe Burrow says he's on track to play in Sunday's opener against Cleveland

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CINCINNATI (AP) — Bengals quarterback Joe Burrow went full speed in practice Wednesday and said he's on track to play in Sunday's opener at Cleveland after a calf injury sidelined him for most of the preseason.

“I'm in a good spot,” Burrow said Wednesday in his first comments to reporters since he was injured July 27. “I'm ready to go. We're going to see how these next couple of days play out because you never know with these things, but I'm expecting to play.”

The 26-year-old Pro Bowler hobbled on one leg and then went to the ground while scrambling out of the pocket on July 27. He rode off the field in a medical cart. He finally returned to practice a week ago after missing more than a month.

Some days the calf muscle is still tight, he said, which is why he's still considering his status to be day to day.

“You're never going to be where you would have been had you gotten those four weeks of reps,” Burrow said. “But you know, I feel great about where I’m at, mentally and physically.”

The fourth-year pro has experience in getting ready for season openers quickly and with limited practice.

Camp was cut short in Burrow's rookie year of 2020 because of the pandemic. He went into camp in 2021 still rehabbing from major surgery on his left knee. He was stricken with appendicitis at the start of camp in 2022.

“This year was different," he said. "I was able to maintain lifting through the whole process. So I’m in great shape — as good a shape as I’ve been in heading into Week 1. Much different than last year, when I was just trying to get back to full strength and full health” after surgery.

“I'm in a really good spot throwing-wise," he said. I'm spinning it as good as I ever have. It's jumping off my hand as good as it ever has before."

Coach Zac Taylor said he doesn't worry about the leader of his offense getting back up to speed.

“He maybe hasn't gotten all the physical reps, but he's gotten the mental reps,” Taylor said. “You know, he's in every meeting talking through every rep as camp has gone on. He's locked in. He's had several good days of practice now, and we still get three more to go.”

The Bengals signed free-agent tackle Orlando Brown Jr. from Kansas City to play on the left side and protect Burrow's blind side. The four-time Pro Bowler said he expects Burrow will be prepared to lead the Bengals in Cleveland.

“He’s a great quarterback that does a great job pre-snap, during the snap, getting the ball out, finding who he wants to get the ball to right away, so it’s not a concern for me,” Brown said. “I’ve got a lot of confidence we’ll be ready Sunday.”

Burrow, who led the Bengals to AFC North titles the past two seasons and a Super Bowl appearance in 2021, could reach a long-term deal with the Bengals soon that will make him one of the highest-paid players in the league.

“That’s the last thing I’m thinking about," Burrow insisted when asked about the status of negotiations. “I’m worried about beating the Browns right now."

He reiterated that he hopes to spend his entire career in Cincinnati.

“I work really hard to put myself in a really good position to go out and be successful on Sundays, and that's just what I enjoy doing," he said. “You know, I wouldn't be myself if I wasn't able to do that. And I'm not going to let the business side of things take that away from me.”

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