Cincinnati Bengals QB Joe Burrow on participating at OTA: 'Really important for me to be here'

CINCINNATI -- For the first time since November, Cincinnati Bengals quarterback Joe Burrow was back on the field for a team activity.

Burrow, wearing a brace on his left knee, threw passes to his teammates and participated in Tuesday's voluntary OTA. It was the first time Burrow had been on the field with the rest of the Bengals since he tore multiple ligaments in his left knee against Washington last season.

Burrow said he was at roughly "80 to 85 percent" as he tossed passes during light drills on the Bengals' practice field outside Paul Brown Stadium. Even if he was limited, Burrow said it was vital for him to be present at the OTA given his leadership status on the team.

"We have a lot of new faces on this team that need to see me there and see me working," Burrow said. "It was really important for me to be here."

Burrow and nearly all of his teammates were present for Tuesday's workout. The players agreed to all show up to a more scaled-back version of previous years' OTAs. Burrow, the top overall pick in the 2020 draft, participated in various passing drills as he continues the rehabilitation process.

Bengals coach Zac Taylor said it was the first time he was able to see Burrow throwing to teammates and his presence was good for the spirit of a team that finished with a 4-11-1 record last season.

"He's a leader of the team, and that's what leaders do," Taylor said. "They want to be there regardless if they're doing a lot or doing a little. We got a lot of guys like him right now in the building and that's exciting to see, but certainly he's the leader of the team."

The third-year coach pointed out that what Burrow did on Tuesday was similar to his activities with private trainers, such as quarterback coach Jordan Palmer, and Nick Cosgray, Cincinnati's director of rehabilitation and performance. Taylor said he doesn't expect Burrow to ramp up his participation level as the team progresses through the OTA portion of the offseason.

"We're not going to push the envelope here," he said.

Burrow said his goal is to be "full-go" for training camp and hopes that he will not be limited. The former Heisman Trophy winner said he hopes to play in some preseason games to shake off any rust before the season opener. Taylor, however, hinted that it's far too early to discuss when he will play in the exhibition games.

Different portions of Burrow's rehab process of been made public since the injury he suffered against Washington on Nov. 22, 2020. He was spotted throwing in California with Palmer. Black Sheep Performance, a Cincinnati gym, posted a video of Burrow doing various strength exercises as he works on gaining an additional five to 10 pounds before the start of the season.

In his first news conference since January, Burrow explained why working with his teammates on Tuesday was so important for him

"I didn't want to just not show up and do my own thing," Burrow said. "I'm at the point where I can, even if I wasn't able to do everything if my knee was less than what it is now, I would still want to be here and be around everybody and communicate and call plays in the huddle."

Bengals safety Jessie Bates, who is now the team's NFLPA representative, said he got excited seeing Burrow lifting his knees and participating in warm-ups before Tuesday's workout that lasted nearly 90 minutes.

"I think we all see the reports of the idea he's gonna play Week 1," Bates said. "But it's kind of exciting to see it with your own eyes, and kind of have an inside scoop on it, rather than everybody else guessing."