Some encouraging news for the Cincinnati Bengals following a disheartening loss to the Los Angeles Rams in Super Bowl LVI: The knee injury that star quarterback Joe Burrow suffered in the second half of the game apparently isn't serious.
Burrow sustained a sprain that will not require surgery based on initial tests, NFL Network Insider Ian Rapoport reported Tuesday, per sources. Bengals coach Zac Taylor confirmed Wednesday that Burrow suffered a sprained MCL, which the coach described as a "reaggravation of something he did back in December."
"He's a tough guy. He played through it," Taylor said. "Rest is gonna be the best thing for him. ... I expect him to come back fully healthy."
With 11:55 left in the game Sunday and the Bengals ahead 20-16, Burrow took a shotgun snap on a third-and-9 play from the Cincinnati 34-yard line and tried to step up in the face a blitzing five-man rush. He was sacked by edge rusher Von Miller, and his facial expression indicated he was in serious pain as he clutched his right knee. Burrow limped off the field under his own power and finished the game.
"Certainly not as bad as it was last offseason and really nothing as far as I can tell that's going to drastically alter his offseason," Rapoport said of Burrow's injury on NFL NOW. "From what I am told, Joe Burrow suffered an injury believed to be a sprain. He has had some tests, gonna get some more tests just to be absolutely sure because he's got a lot of time and why would you mess around? But the belief is that surgery is not needed for Joe Burrow."
The former No. 1 overall draft pick led the Bengals to the Super Bowl in just his second pro season, his first in which he's been healthy enough to play from wire to wire. A torn ACL and MCL ended his rookie year in November of 2020, and his return from that injury was the story of the preseason in Cincinnati.
"After an offseason last year where surgery was the whole thing and rehab was the whole thing, he spent the entire way making his way back to be able to be ready Week 1, then improved throughout the season, he is not gonna have to worry about this offseason," Rapoport added. "A sprain with the belief no surgery is needed for Burrow."
That's a relief for the Bengals, but the close call should serve as an offseason reminder about priorities for improvement through free agency or the draft. Pass protection has been a problem for the Bengals since Burrow first arrived, as he's been sacked a whopping 102 times in 30 career games, counting postseason play. The Bengals managed to win the AFC North in 2021 despite allowing Burrow to be sacked an NFL-high 51 times in the regular season.
Fortunately for the Super Bowl runners-up, their face-of-franchise quarterback escaped without serious injury. But the onus is now on the club to give him more time in the pocket and reduce the number of hits he's absorbed.