Bengals First Takes: Joe Burrow In Pads; Jeff Blake's Advice To Jake Browning

Ryan Meyer
K Evan McPherson kicks the ball during practice on Thursday, September 21, 2023 at the Kettering Health Practice Fields in Cincinnati, Ohio.

As the status of Pro Bowl quarterback Joe Burow provides riveting second-by-second updates, the greatest emergency quarterback in Bengals history has some advice for Burrow’s back-up Jake Browning.

“When you play carefree,” says Jeff Blake, “and you go out there and have fun and just be yourself and play the game you’ve been playing your whole life, can’t nobody stop you.”

OK, the early Friday update on Burrow:

Like Thursday, when he didn’t practice, he wore the uniform of the day. And Friday it was full pads.

But unlike Friday, he threw during individual drills. And, he looked to throw easily. Something that he also didn’t do Thursday. He got a brief cart ride from Bengals president Mike Brown before Burrow went into the stretching line and after they talked for a few seconds Burrow got dropped off.

Brown loves his quarterbacks. He gave Blake a big deal after his first 14 swashbuckling NFL starts revived the franchise in 1994-95. The week before his first NFL start, Blake, in just three NFL seasons, had thrown nine NFL passes and was the No. 3 quarterback.

But after two injuries, on Oct. 30, 1994, Blake started for the winless Bengals against the Super Bowl champion Cowboys and engineered a near-epic upset at Riverfront Stadium. After Blake announced himself with his signature deep ball on two perfect moonlight touchdowns to wide receiver Darnay Scott of 67 and 55 yards for a 14-0 lead, the Boys needed a late field goal to win.

It was the first of 100 starts, 66 of them with the Bengals in a career that lasted 14 seasons. Blake, 52, now the director of IMG’s quarterback academy and offensive coordinator and quarterbacks coach for IMG’s post-graduate team, believes he was playing for his life that day.

“I was either going to cement my career or I wasn’t going to be in the league,” Blake says. “To me (the Cowboys) were just somebody who was in my way. I had nothing to lose.”

Blake can go through all the mechanical things Browning would have to do if called on (knowing the hots, feeling the man-beaters, seeing the field), but to him it is a mindset first and foremost.

“It’s about who you are as a quarterback, what you believe in and how you operate regardless of your situation,” Blake says. “Now it’s an opportunity. Just like Brock Purdy did.”

Just like Jeff Blake did.

“I had nothing to lose,” says Blake 100 starts later.

SIMMONS SAYS: The Bengals are fifth covering punts and second in net punting average, but special teams coordinator Darrin Simmons says he needs more from rookie punter Brad Robbins.

The good news is he’s seen it in practice and is waiting for it on game day.

“We’re trying to flip the field and we haven’t flipped the field very well,” Simmons said before Friday’s practice. “What’s encouraging is that he’s punting better in practice … (Thursday) he had a phenomenal day. One of the best days he’s had.”

In 2021 during his brilliant rookie season, kicker Evan McPherson talked about how he monitored his heartbeat in games and Simmons thinks there might be something to that.

“They’re just the opposite,” Simmons said. “Evan’s not always a great practice player, but he shows up and kicks well in the games.”

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