Cincinnati Bengals quarterback Joe Burrow didn’t tell any of his teammates that today was the day he was returning to practice. He just started getting suited up in the locker room. That’s when his teammates noticed, and murmurs started buzzing through the locker room.

“That’s how much he means to this team and this organization,” cornerback Mike Hilton said. “He’s our leader, and every time he’s on the field, we’re lucky to have him.”

How Did Joe Burrow Do in His First Bengals Practice Back?

Just as he never let on that he was returning from the calf strain he suffered on July 27, Burrow didn’t make a big deal out of stepping into the huddle for the first time.

“What’s up, guys,” is all he said, according to both Ja’Marr Chase and Tee Higgins.

“That’s how he walks into the huddle all the time,” Chase added.

Getting back to a routine is what everyone in the organization has been looking forward to since Burrow felt the calf seize, took a couple of hops, and rode off the field on a cart toward the end of the second practice of training camp.

Burrow’s return is not only a sign he’ll be ready in time for the season opener in Cleveland, but it also provided us with the elusive answer to the term “several.”

Five Weeks Off For Burrow

The day after Burrow got hurt, head coach Zac Taylor said he had escaped anything serious and would be back in several weeks. Almost every question after that was answered with “several weeks from when I first said several weeks.”

Burrow returned one day shy of the five-week mark.

“It felt good just to see him out there, see the big smile on his face,” Higgins said. “Just excited to get the season back going. A lot of high hopes for this team, and guys in the locker room feel the same way.”

The Bengals didn’t do any 11-on-11 work, but that had less to do with easing Burrow back into the rhythm of practice and more to do with not overloading the team 11 days before the opener. Burrow threw routes on air and did some 7-on-7 work.

Thursday will look similar before the players get Friday, Saturday, and Sunday off for the holiday weekend. The Bengals will get back to work Monday, then the regular game prep fully begins next Wednesday.

Prepping For The Browns

“We owe it ourselves to start to preview Cleveland to be ready for that. At the same time, you can overprepare,” Taylor said. “When you put together six practices on a team, it starts to feel like a lot. You want to keep game week fresh for the guys, to keep their attention, keep their focus on Cleveland.”

It didn’t take long Wednesday for Burrow to have his “he’s back” moment.

“He looked pretty good, he looked fluent, threw a dime today, and I was like, ‘Oh yeah, he’s back,’” Higgins said. “It was to Chuck Sizzle.”

That would be rookie wide receiver Charlie Jones, who said it was a long pass earlier in the practice that couldn’t have been placed any better.

“It was a deep ball to the left, just a go ball,” he said. “Right on the money. Didn’t even have to adjust to it.”

Burrow’s return brought juice to the practice for the defense as well as the offense. But not too much.

“You could say the energy was definitely getting a little higher,” Hilton said. “He went out there and looked good, and we’re happy to be back to competing against him.”

A notorious trash talker, Hilton said that — as is the case with Taylor’s script for practice — will have to wait a bit to ramp up to normal levels.

“Give that a couple of days,” he said. “I’ve got to get my hands on the ball first before I do that.”