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Joe Burrow's surgeon says he's 'on track' to play Week 1 after ACL, MCL tears

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Joe Burrow's surgeon is confident that the Cincinnati Bengals quarterback will be ready to play in Week 1 after a significant knee injury cut his rookie season short. 

Burrow suffered a torn ACL and MCL in his left knee during a collision in Week 11 against the Washington Football team last season. He underwent surgery on Dec. 2. At the time, Bengals head coach Zac Taylor said the team expected Burrow back during the 2021 season. 

Since then Burrow has expressed optimism in a Week 1 return that his surgeon Dr. Neal ElAttrache confirmed Tuesday. 

'He's worked his tail off'

"He's on track for full go for start of the season," ElAttrache told ESPN's Adam Schefter. "He's doing all the work. He's worked his tail off and been an amazingly mature participant in his recovery. He's focused and great to work with."

Burrow's injured knee has required extensive rehabilitation work following his recovery from the December procedure. Burrow told "The Cris Collinsworth Podcast" in April that his rehab was going well and that he was ahead of schedule. 

"I'm very optimistic about where I'm at and also where the team is at," Burrow said on April 21. "Rehab is going very, very well and lifting is going very, very well. I'm in great shape. Legs feel good, knee feels good. There's still a long way to go, but I'm expecting to be there on the first snap of 2021."

Joe Burrow and his doctor are both confident in his ability to start Week 1 against the Vikings.  (Andy Lyons/Getty Images)
Joe Burrow and his doctor are both confident in his ability to start Week 1 against the Vikings. (Andy Lyons/Getty Images)

Surgeon: Burrow's knee performing 'perfectly'

At the time, Burrow said that he was running and performing drop-back drills while throwing passes to stationary targets. He had not yet progressed to throwing on the run. 

ElAttrache said on Tuesday that testing revealed that Burrow's knee was performing "perfectly" and agreed that his recovery was ahead of schedule.

"We just had him tested out here with a high-tech video and biomechanical evaluation and he was ahead of where we anticipated and well into the return to performance phase of his recovery."

Burrow told reporters in January that he was given a nine to 12 month recovery timeline to return to the field. The Bengals open their season on Sept. 12 against the Minnesota Vikings, which would fall just beyond the nine-month timeline from the Dec. 2 injury. 

Burrow's doctors don't want him taking contact during that nine-month window, which would appear to rule out preseason play. If his knee is ready and he and Bengals coaches are confident he's prepared to play in Week 1, he could conceivably suit up against the Vikings. 

Can Burrow pick up where he left off?

Burrow, 24, was the No. 1 pick in the 2020 draft after leading LSU to an undefeated national championship during the 2019 season. In 10 starts last season, Burrow averaged 268.8 yards per game while completing 65.3% of his passing attempts. He tallied 13 touchdowns and five interceptions before his season was cut short. 

He said in April that he was getting comfortable with NFL passing concepts and facing NFL defenses prior to his injury. The Bengals built around Burrow at the top of April's draft, selecting wide receiver and former LSU teammate Ja'Marr Chase with the No. 5 pick and Clemson guard Jackson Carman with the 14th pick of the second round. 

The Bengals' offensive line will be closely watched in 2021 in the aftermath of Burrow's injury and generally poor play up front last season. 

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