Outside of Joe Burrow and all those inside the discussions of the franchise quarterback’s rehab, nobody knew quite what to expect Tuesday on the practice fields adjacent Paul Brown Stadium.

As consistently ends up the case with Burrow in Cincinnati, those in attendance were blown away by what they saw.

This might have looked like just another hazy late-May offseason session, but it meant more than that to the Bengals, Burrow and the optimistic direction of an organization finally feeling fresh with an established foundation after two years of churning and growing pains.

It started with a few confident steps next to one former LSU teammate and ended with extra work with another. The story of what happened in-between might have been more publicly symbolic, but it was felt throughout the locker room.

“It’s good for the spirit of the team to see him back out there practicing,” head coach Zac Taylor said. “He’s a leader of the team, and that’s what leaders do.”

Exactly what Burrow did and said officially began the hype train for the 2021 season, sending the message Burrow wanted the entire team to feel as the Bengals prepare to erase 4-11-1 from their memory. He couldn’t do that while rehabbing in California or even working on the rehab field. Not in his mind. Not for a team that’s supposed to be defined by a willingness to put in the work.