With all the rumors swirling, let’s attempt to finally answer the question, “Does Joe Burrow want to play for the Cincinnati Bengals?”
"“I did not, no. It’s an interesting…(pause) going back home to Ohio, it would be a lot of fun.”"
Burrow then goes on to explain that even though he grew up in Ohio, he has always been a Saints fan. Did Joe Burrow grow up dreaming about playing for the Bengals? No. Does he think it would be fun playing for his home state? Yes.
So does the 23-year-old want to play for the Bengals? The answer is yes. Why? Because he wants to play for whatever team is going to pick him number 1 overall. So unless a historic trade is offered to the Bengals, the team picking #1 is Cincinnati.
Much of the debate around whether the Heisman winner wants to play for The Queen City comes from his neutral statements when asked about how he would feel about being picked number one, and playing for the Bengals. Statements like the following, given during an interview associated with him receiving the Davy O’Brien award.
"“They have their process that they have to go through, so I’m just blessed to be in the position that I’m in. If they select me, they select me. I’m going to do everything in my power to be the best football player that I can be.”"
You can interpret this response as him remaining humble and being willing to play for any team, should the Bengals decide to trade out of the number one spot. However, the interviewer pointed out that his response is vague enough to be interpreted that he is unwilling to outright say “Yes, I am happy to play for the Bengals.”
Burrow’s response to this comment is particularly interesting because it appears to confirm a theory that he is giving a predetermined response by repeating the basic sentiment of his previous statement.
"“It’s a long process the next couple of months. We have the Combine. We have the pro day. There’s a long time until the draft. There’s a lot of information, a lot of different places, a lot of people saying a lot of things, but I’m just focused on training right now.”"
Just speculating, but if Burrow has been instructed to avoid saying anything that would commit him to the Bengals, then his vague response makes more sense. We can never know if the NFL is whispering into young prospects ear’s, telling them to keep their responses neutral. But it wouldn’t be the first suggestion that the NFL is manipulating the news cycle to maximize the drama around their prime-time event that is the NFL draft.
So it might be true that Burrow is unwilling to state that he is “happy to play for the Bengals.” However, he did just say that it would be “fun” to play for them.
The entire interview with 1310 The Ticket can be found here. It touches on some great topics that provide insight into the Bengals potential future quarterback.
Another article, written by Drew Davison of the Star-Telegraph, contains quotes from both of Burrow’s parents on the topic and seems to combat the narrative that the LSU product doesn’t want to be in stripes. It also includes the following statement,
"“Burrow said he hasn’t talked with the Palmers about playing for the Bengals organization.”"
Interesting news, considering that much of the concern that Burrow wouldn’t want to play for Cincinnati comes from the rumors that Carson Palmer has poisoned Burrow against the Bengals. Presumably, this arose because Carson’s brother Jordan Palmer is assisting Burrow in his training.
Joe Burrow saying that it would be fun to play for an Ohio team should be good enough to calm the fan base’s nerves. No Bengals fan wants to think that their next quarterback has a negative opinion of their team.
Considering that Joe Burrow grew up as a Saints fan, it’s doubtful he has many strong negative feelings towards the Bengals. Although, he may have seriously considered holding out… had the Saint’s divisional rival, the Atlanta Falcons, wound up with the number one overall pick.