CINCINNATI -- It wasn't until around halftime of Sunday’s game against the Los Angeles Chargers that Cincinnati Bengals quarterback Joe Burrow realized he had a problem on his hands.
Well, his right one, specifically.
On the Bengals' first drive of the 41-22 loss, Burrow said a sack that resulted in a lost fumble also dislocated the pinkie finger on his right (throwing) hand. Burrow said the adrenaline numbed the pain initially, but as the game progressed, he did his best to manage the injury in order to remain in the game.
The need to navigate his pinkie problem hasn’t changed as the Bengals face the San Francisco 49ers Sunday at Paul Brown Stadium (4:25 p.m. ET on CBS), with Burrow altering his mid-week preparation in hopes of protecting the finger.
“Any time you have a finger injury on your throwing hand, it's gonna take some tweaking to see how you're gonna be able to throw the ball,” Burrow said on Wednesday during his weekly news conference.
Burrow finished the game against Los Angeles and nearly led the Bengals to an historic comeback victory. He was 24-of-40 passing for 300 yards, with one touchdown throw and two interceptions as Cincinnati came within two points of clawing out of an early 24-0 deficit.
Before the start of the second half, Burrow looked at different options to ease the pain. First, he tried tape on his right hand. He then tried a couple of gloves, but the swelling prohibited him from putting them on.
“Really, too painful to get them on. And I hadn't worked throwing with a glove any in practice,” Burrow said.
Although Burrow expects to play against the 49ers on Sunday, the pinkie has provided obstacles throughout the week.
Burrow did not practice on Wednesday, with the team officially citing the finger injury and an unspecified knee issue as the reasons.
Bengals coach Zac Taylor said the staff wanted to alleviate the pressure on Burrow’s pinkie early in the week. Taylor also said he wasn’t going to micromanage how Burrow adapts to the injury as the days progress.
“He knows better than I do, how it’s going to feel and what he needs to do to get ready,” Taylor said. “I’ve got full faith in him to get himself ready for Sunday.”
As of Wednesday, Burrow said the pinkie was feeling “pretty good,” but noted that it isn’t free of any issues as he is still experiencing some swelling and feels some pain if he gets hit.
In order to compensate for the injury, Burrow, who scrapped his usual upper body workouts this week, said he has to grip the ball harder when throwing it.
With no glove on his throwing hand, Burrow threw to receivers during Thursday’s practice and was a limited participant. ESPN injury analyst Stephania Bell said while the injured finger can be aggravated with contact moving forward, the fact Burrow used no finger support against the Chargers was a positive sign.
“The fact [the team] is comfortable with him doing that is a pretty good indicator that there must not have been any damage that was too extensive, or at least not enough to prohibit him from continuing to play,” Bell said.
For the Bengals and Burrow, the ball just has to arrive on time at its intended destination. They have spent the week figuring out the best way to achieve that against San Francisco, a game that could push the Bengals closer to their first playoff berth since 2015.
Even if the pinkie still poses some problems, it likely won’t hurt as much as it did last weekend against the Chargers. And in that performance, Burrow showed he’s more than willing to gut it out.
“He loves the guys around him and that really just shows you who he is,” said Bengals safety Vonn Bell. “He’s a warrior man, through and through, so hats off to him.
“We’re gonna get it nursed up. We’re gonna get it taken care of, so we’re gonna keep on going.”