Back in December, with the league ramping up its COVID-19 protocols, the Bengals, like so many other teams, were forced to make their Saturday night-before-the-game meetings virtual. And in doing so, Cincinnati coach Zac Taylor, offensive coordinator Brian Callahan and quarterbacks coach Dan Pitcher sensed an opportunity.

They knew their franchise quarterback, Joe Burrow, was isolated and immobilized far away, north of Los Angeles, in Santa Monica, with a torn ACL and MCL. They knew the sort of toll that could take on an athlete and figured, maybe, they could help. So they decided to Zoom him into those meetings with the other quarterbacks as the team played out the string. And maybe when we get September or October, Burrow will look back and find some sort of minute detail that he took from it and applied in returning to football.

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But when it was happening? Really, while it might sound nice to say the intensely competitive 24-year-old was sapping wisdom from his laptop screen, the idea was a whole lot simpler than that. For Burrow, it gave him the chance to think about something other than his knee, and do it back in the environment he was most comfortable.

“It was just to keep me sane, basically,” Burrow says.

“It was naturally an easy way to keep him involved,” Taylor adds. “He’d jump in, and it wasn’t like an everyday thing—he hadn’t been with us during the week for all of that, obviously. But it was good just to see him there.”

Now, Burrow is no longer confined to participating from wherever he might be sitting. Over the last month or so, he’s gotten to be back around his teammates more, and last week, around the whole team again and on to the practice field.