The 32 teams in the NFL, minus the Pittsburgh Steelers and the Dallas Cowboys, are entering a new era of the preseason, now that it has been shortened from four games to three. The task at hand is to figure out how best to divide the body of work when translating playing time from the length of four games down to three.
Typically, the third preseason game was the ‘tune-up’ contest in which the starters would play their most extensive playing time. Then the fourth preseason game often consisted almost entirely of reserves playing. Now that there are three, how do you balance it?
Given that the preseason ends one week earlier now, I think most teams will still use the third preseason game in the manner they long have been. That may be what the Cincinnati Bengals are thinking, to some degree. At the very least, head coach Zac Taylor has already announced that quarterback Joe Burrow would not be playing.
The Bengals play tomorrow. Burrow has yet to play in a preseason game—not even as a rookie last year, since there wasn’t one. But the team is being cautious in working him back from the torn ACL that he suffered in the second half of the 2020 season and ended his rookie campaign.
The real question is if Taylor will have Burrow play at all. Their final preseason game will be on August 29, at home, against the Miami Dolphins. The head coach is expected to announce whether or not Burrow will participate next week, but not before then. But for his part, he wants to be out there.
“I’ve been lobbying”, he told reporters recently when he was asked about his status and whether he was pushing to play. “Just saying what plays I might like against Miami, third downs, first couple plays. Just throw some plays out there and put them in their head”.
“You know I always want to go out there and compete, but I don’t get paid to make those decisions”, he added. “That’s ownership and Zac and I trust those guys to make the right decisions for us and our team and we’ll see about the next week”.
Burrow was the first-overall pick in the 2020 NFL Draft. He started the first 10 games of the season for the Bengals last year after suffering the injury early in the second half. During that time, he completed 264 of 404 pass attempts for 2,688 yards, throwing 13 touchdown passes to five interceptions, but they only went 2-7-1.