The last place you want to be if you're an NFL player in training camp is on a cart.
Except if you're Joe Burrow and you're making your first on-field camp appearance since an appendectomy six days ago. Burrow, the Bengals MVP candidate quarterback, roamed the field Monday in a green golf cart that mirrors the one from which Bengals president Mike Brown watches practice. Which is all you need to know about Burrow's station at Paul Brown Stadium these days.
"Hell no," said wide receiver Tyler Boyd when asked if any teammates rode Burrow about his ride. "That's Money Joe. He can do what he wants. He doesn't need to be standing around. Stay off your feet, boss man. Happy to have him out here at practice."
Head coach Zac Taylor doesn't have a timeline for his return to practice and left it up to Burrow if he wanted to watch the fifth camp practice on the field. Before this, he had checked into the training room briefly a couple of days since surgery.
"That's his call to get out there," Taylor said, "He feels up to it, so we'll let him get back out there and spend as much time as he needs to."
Of course, Burrow was out there for the entire practice, spending the 7-on-7 and team periods about 20 yards behind the offense, either standing amid the skill players and the 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 in on his franchise quarterback. His three wide receivers, Tyler Boyd, Ja'Marr Chase and Tee Higgins, gathered around after stretch to offer a photo op. He gave running back Joe Mixon a ride to a station.
"I see you, Joey B," said cornerback Mike Hilton as he tooled between drills and Burrow flashed him a V with his fingers.
"It was great just seeing him walking in and just him being okay," said Boyd before practice. "Every guy on the team knows he's a strong individual. And we know he overcomes adversity very well. And we know he will bounce back, but he's got to get right first. We're here behind him no matter what."
No one, it seemed, was giving him any grief about riding in the cart.
"I think they made him do that. They didn't want anybody to get too close to him and bump into him. We'll find different ways to give him crap. We won't give him crap for the cart," said quarterbacks coach Dan Pitcher with a smile. "I'm sure he missed being out here for the first couple of days. He loves it. I'm just glad to have him back."
Burrow, wearing a head set, stayed engaged listening to each and every Zac call. Pitcher says he's now back in the meetings.
"He contributed to the conversation between periods and after plays," Pitcher said. "We'll get him healed up and get him back out there."
That's still a guess. But there's no guesswork on what just his presence means.
"It certainly is a positive. He lifts the team up in more than one way," Taylor said. "I think for everyone to see him after not seeing him for a couple of days is certainly a positive that our guys can build on."
Even if it was in a golf cart.
PLAYER OF THE DAY: QB Joe Burrow
PLAY OF THE DAY: CB Delonte Hood
It came at the end of practice by a player grinding for a spot at the end of the roster. But that didn't dim the enthusiasm of the Bengals secondary when Hood, an undrafted rookie out of NAIA Peru State, leaped high in front of fellow undrafted rookie Kwamie Lassiter II for an interception.
Led by slot cornerback Mike Hilton, they rushed the field from one sideline to the other to tackle Hood in congratulations, which shows you how important this group of veteran defensive backs is in the locker room. Hilton, an undrafted guy himself, smiled when he was told it looked like the end of the AFC title game when he rushed on the field to greet Evan McPherson after his overtime field goal put them in the Super Bowl.
"When me and Chido (Awuzie) and Jessie (Bates III) ran out there," Hilton said of those mic'd-up highlights from Kansas City. "He's an undrafted guy. I kind of know what his mindset is. Making a play like that, that's big for him. You've got to show you're into it in a game or practice. That's something throughout the locker room."
The 5-11, 192-pound Hood is an intriguing guy. After he had eight interceptions at Glenville State in 2019, he transferred from Toledo to Peru in Peru, Neb., during COVID. At the University of Nebraska pro day back in March, he ran a 4.38-second 40-yard dash, which would have been fifth among cornerbacks at the NFL scouting combine. Long and lean, his 35-inch vertical jump and 10-5 board jump drew some eyeballs.
That's what he did when he won a jump ball with Lassiter. He was excited not because he saw the horde of teammates rushing at him out of the corner of his eye, but that he had made good on a play he didn't make before.
"Just being coached on it," Hood said. "Just trying to minimize the amount of touching during a route and being able to read his movements and things like that and then knowing it was a vertical route, turning around and play the ball."
QUOTE OF THE DAY
WR Tyler Boyd on seeing Joe Burrow in a golf cart:
"That's Money Joe. He can do what he wants. He doesn't need to be standing around. Stay off your feet, boss man. Happy to have him out here at practice."
SLANTS AND SCREENS: Right guard Alex Cappa and edge Joseph Ossai participated in their first team activity of camp in limited fashion ...
Although Lassiter, the Kansas rookie, didn't win that battle with Hood, he did make a nice play against the first defense in Cover Two when quarterback Brandon Allen hit him down the seam. Lassiter has impressed the coaches, but he knows his roster spot depends on his punt returns in the preseason games. On Monday they also had him back there fielding kickoffs ...
Linebacker Akeem Davis-Gaither is getting a ton of snaps with the ones as linebacker Logan Wilson (shoulder) does everything but team drills. And ADG is showing up. On Monday he made a nice break on the ball after Allen showed play-action and he picked off a ball headed for wide receiver Mike Thomas ...
The offense had a much better day in the low red zone compared to Saturday. Chase got inside Awuzie on a slant for a touchdown and tight end Hayden Hurst got one leaking out to the flat. Wisconsin undrafted rookie wide receiver Kendric Pryor got in twice for the twos ...
Ho-hum...McPherson went 6-for-6 Monday after the 65-yard blast Saturday in Paul Brown Stadium capped a 7-for-8 day. Monday wasn't a long-range display as he hit from 28, 32, 35, 39, 42 and 46. The vet combo of long snapper Clark Harris and holder Kevin Huber and the kid combo of long snapper Cal Adomitis and holder Drue Chrisman stayed together in splitting the duties ...
The pads come on for the first time Tuesday in a 2:15 p.m. practice ...