Bengals’ Joe Burrow says contract negotiations were not a distraction

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Cincinnati Bengals quarterback Joe Burrow, in his first comments to reporters since becoming the NFL’s highest-paid player, said contract negotiations were not a distraction as he worked on rehab from a training camp injury and then game plans for the opening game on Sunday in Cleveland worked .

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“I’ve always been pretty good at compartmentalizing things that are important to me,” the 26-year-old said at a press conference on Saturday.

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Burrow completed his contract extension Thursday before the Bengals’ buses left for Cleveland. While the Bengals did not disclose terms, a person familiar with the deal told the Associated Press that Burrow agreed to a five-year deal worth $275 million, with more than $219 million guaranteed.

“I work really hard to perform well on the field and I think a lot about how I handle myself and how I can be the best I can be for this organization,” he said. “So it means a lot to me to be rewarded for it – but there’s a lot more to do.”

Burrow, entering his fourth season in the NFL, has turned around the franchise’s fortunes while earning a reputation as a decisive and creative leader with a knack for picking up yards when plays fail. He guided Cincinnati to two straight AFC North titles and one Super Bowl appearance after the 2021 season.

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Signing the 2022 Pro Bowler and 2021 AP NFL Comeback Player of the Year to an extension has been a goal of the team all summer, and Burrow hasn’t wavered from his desire to spend the rest of his career in Cincinnati.

“A very well deserved day for Joe,” said Bengals coach Zac Taylor. “He’s a guy who represents everything we want to stand for. It’s on the field as a football player, it’s off the field in the locker room, it’s in the classroom as a student of the game.”

Burrow missed most of training camp with a calf strain, but returned to practice last week and all signs point to him starting against the Browns on Sunday.

He said it was important to him to complete overtime before the opening game, but he did not discuss what might have caused the delays.

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“We got what we wanted, they got what they wanted, but I’ll be here for a long time,” he said. “That’s the most important.”

Burrow said he took a deep breath and celebrated “for about five minutes” after the signing.

“You’re the highest paid (player) for a certain amount of time until the next person breaks it,” he said. “You try to do as much as you can for yourself and then go about your business. It’s all about winning here for us.”

Some of Burrow’s teammates said they were glad the issue was finally out of the way.

“I was just a little bit relieved because a lot of guys play better and with less stress because you have their back and the organization believes and trusts in you. And now you just go out there and call it quits,” said wide receiver Tyler Boyd.

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Center Ted Karras said the offensive linemen were having dinner Thursday night when news of the extension came.

“I’m really glad we made it to Week 1 so we can settle in, not really have to talk about it anymore and can go to Cleveland to win,” Karras said.

For Christmas last year, Burrow gave its O-line a gift of luxury cruises. Expectations could be higher when the holidays come this year.

“I’m sure when the holiday season is over we’ll chide him a little,” Karras joked. “But he has always connected us incredibly well, just through his rookie deal. If there is a maximum offer, we will see what we get.”

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