AFC North champ Bengals will rest Burrow in season finale

Sports
Rashad Fenton, Joe Burrow

Cincinnati Bengals quarterback Joe Burrow (9) scrambles against Kansas City Chiefs cornerback Rashad Fenton (27) during the first half of an NFL football game, Sunday, Jan. 2, 2022, in Cincinnati. (AP Photo/Jeff Dean)

CINCINNATI (AP) — The AFC North champion Cincinnati Bengals won’t play quarterback Joe Burrow in the regular-season finale against the Cleveland Browns on Sunday to make sure he is healthy for the first round of the playoffs.

Burrow is nursing aches and pains, including his right knee and pinky finger on his throwing hand, but said he could have played this week had it been necessary. Coach Zac Taylor told the quarterback earlier in the week that he would sit Sunday.

“I think any time you can get a little break at this point in the season,” Burrow said Wednesday. “You know, we played a lot of games, bodies are starting to wear down a little bit. You can rest me this week and get my body back to where it needs to be so I can be full strength, running around the way I need to be for Week 1 of the playoffs.”

Running back Joe Mixon and other Cincinnati starters will be sidelined because of reserve/COVID-19 protocols, but should be back for the playoffs. They also include defensive end and sacks leader Trey Hendrickson, defensive lineman B.J. Hill, center Trey Hopkins, guard Quinton Spain and safety Vonn Bell.

If the players don’t have symptoms, they are eligible to come off the list after five days.

Taylor said it’s possible that star rookie receiver Ja’Marr Chase also will be rested Sunday.

“I can’t make a prediction on the amount of starters (who will be held out),” Taylor said. “I can certainly say for Joe (Burrow), we’ll rest him this week and make sure he’s 100% ready to go. I know he’s felt good and could play if needed but I just made the decision that we’re going to rest him this week.”

The third-seeded Bengals can improve their position with a win over the Browns (7-9) on Sunday and some help from other teams. Burrow’s backup, Brandon Allen, will have a chance to get his first significant playing time of the season.

The starting quarterbacks for both teams will be watching from the sidelines. Browns quarterback Baker Mayfield has already been ruled out of the game so he can prepare for surgery on his non-throwing shoulder. Cleveland has been eliminated from the playoffs.

“We’re trying to win this game,” Taylor said. “We need to beat Cleveland. And the guys who are going to take the field, that’s what we expect from their performance and from our performance as a coaching staff.

Burrow limped off the field late in the wild 34-31 win over the Kansas City Chiefs on Sunday that clinched the first division title and playoff appearance for the Bengals (10-6) since the 2015 season. He’s been sacked 51 times this season.

“I’m still planning on getting all the throws I need to get in practice,” Burrow said. “I think practice is the reason we’ve been on such a roll, because we’re such a good practice team and we continued to get these reps banked throughout that week that allows us to go out there and execute on Sunday. So I’m going to keep getting those reps in practice.”

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