Burrow’s return to the field lifts the Bengals

The last place you want to be if you’re an NFL player in training camp is on a cart.

Unless you’re Joe Burrow and making your first appearance on the pitch since having an appendectomy six days ago. Burrow, the Bengals’ MVP quarterback candidate, drove around the field Monday in a green golf cart that mirrors the one from which Bengals president Mike Brown watches practice. That’s all you need to know about Burrow Station at Paul Brown Stadium these days.

“Hell no,” catcher Tyler Boyd said when asked if any teammates had gone up on Burrow about his run. “It’s Money Joe. He can do whatever he wants. He doesn’t have to be here. Don’t move, boss. Glad to have him here in practice.”

Head coach Zac Taylor has no timetable for his return to practice and left it up to Burrow if he wanted to watch the fifth camp practice on the field. Before that, he briefly showed up in the training room a few days after the operation.

“It’s his call out,” Taylor said, “He feels up to it, so we’ll let him come back and spend as much time as he needs.”

Of course, Burrow was there throughout practice, playing the 7-on-7 and team periods about 20 yards behind the offense, either standing amid the skillful players and coaches or sitting among them in the cart.

He had all kinds of visitors as he sat in the cart. Even Mike Brown got out of his cart to chat with Burrow sitting in his cart to check on his franchise quarterback. His three wide receivers, Tyler Boyd, Ja’Marr Chase and Tee Higgins, came together after the stretch to offer a photo op. He drove running back Joe Mixon to a train station.

“I see you, Joey B,” cornerback Mike Hilton said as he practiced between drills and Burrow waved him a V with his fingers.

“It was great to see him come and be okay,” Boyd said before practice. “All the guys in the team know he’s a strong individual. And we know he overcomes adversity very well. And we know he’ll bounce back, but he has to succeed first. We’re here behind him no matter what.”

No one, it seemed, blamed him for getting on the cart.

“I think they made him do that. They didn’t want anybody getting too close to him and bumping into him. We’ll find different ways to give him shit. We won’t give him shit for the cart,” quarterbacks coach Dan Pitcher said with a smile. “I’m sure he missed being here the first few days. He loves it. I’m just glad he’s back.”

Burrow, wearing a headset, remained committed to listening to Zac’s every call. Pitcher says he is now back in meetings.

“He contributed to the conversation between periods and after games,” Pitcher said. “We will treat him and bring him back there.”

It’s still a guess. But there is no guesswork as to what his presence simply means.

“That’s definitely a positive. He elevates the team in more ways than one,” Taylor said. “I think everyone seeing him after not seeing him for a few days is definitely a positive that our guys can build on.”

Even though it was in a golf cart.

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