NFL quarterback injuries continue to mount through Week 11: 'That's a part of the game'
The 2023 NFL season has seen a number of teams run into trouble after their starting quarterbacks suffered season-ending injuries.
The Cincinnati Bengals were dealt a serious blow on Friday when head coach Zac Taylor confirmed that quarterback Joe Burrow would be out for the remainder of the season after suffering a torn ligament in his right wrist during Thursday night’s game against the Baltimore Ravens.
Burrow, playing in the first year of his $275 million contract, was injured during the second quarter of the Bengals' 34-20 loss to the Ravens.
Taylor spoke to the media on Friday and said the injury will likely require surgery, meaning that the 26-year-old signal-caller would be sidelined with injury.
"Obviously, [he’s] very disappointed because he likes leading this team and knows the opportunities that lie in front of us," Taylor said.
"But again, he’s responding in a positive manner. You can only control what you can control, and his next step for us is continuing to lead this team, just in a different way, and assisting Jake [Browning] and entrusting that he’ll be able to do that and help us be fine moving forward."
Burrow told reporters Friday it was "tough."
"You work so hard for seasons and moments like these. Whenever you get hurt, and it ends early, it's tough to handle. That's a part of the game."
Burrow is no stranger to this type of heartbreak. During his rookie season in 2020, he sustained a significant knee injury during the Bengals' Week 11 matchup against Washington. He underwent surgery, which officially ended his rookie campaign.
Burrow finishes the 2023 season with 244 completions for 2,309 yards and 15 touchdowns.
Next in line will likely be Jake Browning, a 27-year-old who was a career practice squad player until this season.
But the Bengals’ situation this season, unfortunately, isn’t unique.
The Cleveland Browns will be without quarterback Deshaun Watson for a full season again after the veteran signal-caller suffered a season-ending shoulder injury against the Ravens in Week 10.
Watson, who missed the first 11 games of the 2022 season after getting suspended by the NFL after accusations of sexual misconduct, will miss the rest of this season after he fractured his right shoulder during the Browns' 33-31 win over Baltimore.
"It’s very tough," Watson told reporters during a press conference last Wednesday. "Hurt about it, but I’m going to make sure I keep my head above water and make sure I stay in touch with all the guys and support them as much as I possibly can, and attack this rehab process after surgery and make sure that I’m doing whatever I can to be beneficial for the team while not actually being on the field with them, and also prepping for the next year."
With a 5-1 record as starter, Watson completed 105 passes for 1,115 yards and seven touchdowns. With a fully guaranteed $230 million contract, Watson is owed $46 million for each of the next three years with a cap hit of almost $64 million per season.
Following news of the injury, Browns general manager Andrew Berry committed to Watson’s status as the team’s starter next season.
"Yeah, we feel good about Deshaun. We see how talented he is. We could see it since he returned from his last injury, the level that he is able to play. He’s smart, he’s physically tough, he’s mentally tough. He really is, as [head coach] Kevin’s [Stefanski] mentioned, he’s the leader of the team, and we’re excited to get him back for 2024."
For now, the Browns will stick with rookie Dorian Thompson-Robinson, who pulled off a 13-10 win over the Pittsburgh Steelers on Sunday. But Berry hasn't stopped there. On Monday, the team announced the signing of veteran quarterback Joe Flacco, a former Super Bowl MVP during his time with the Ravens.
A defeated Kirk Cousins limped off the field before being carted off during the Minnesota Vikings’ Week 8 victory over the Green Bay Packers.
An MRI later confirmed the Vikings’ worst fears: Cousins had sustained a season-ending Achilles injury.
Minnesota had won three straight with Cousins after losing four of five to start the season. At the time of his injury, Cousins was tied for the NFL lead in touchdown passes (18), second in passing yards (2,331) and third in passer rating (103.8).
"I was Googling the five stages of grief, maybe even that night, trying to understand that better," Cousins said Friday. "I don’t think it’s stages. I think all five just swirl all at once."
"I’m still mad. I’m still disappointed. But then you go right back to all the things you know. I can’t change it. You’ve got to move forward. That’s what we sign up for when we step between the white lines," Cousins said. "I’m fortunate to have come this far and not had a surgery in football, so you’re also grateful, too. I just believe there’s more to the story up ahead."
The timing of Cousins’ injury is complicated with his contract set to expire next spring.
"Those conversations will happen, but it’s just not time yet," he added Friday. "We’ve got so much to focus on with this season. The guys are playing so well, and that’s really where the attention needs to be."
The Vikings, however, have found themselves a silver lining with Joshua Dobbs, a seven-year veteran who was acquired from the Arizona Cardinals in an emergency trade two days after Cousins went down.
Minnesota's winning streak continued to five under Dobbs, but it was halted Sunday with a 21-20 loss to the Denver Broncos.
The New York Giants' struggles this season were exacerbated when in Week 9 Daniel Jones suffered a torn ACL in his right knee, the second notable injury for the fifth-year quarterback this season.
Jones was hurt on a non-contact play against the Las Vegas Raiders. On the final play of the first quarter, his right knee gave out while he was looking downfield.
"I mean, it's tough, for sure. You put a lot into the season. You put a lot into preparing to play, and to get it taken from you through an injury is definitely tough," Jones said after the game.
"That's real and that's something that you deal with as a player, but it's part of the game at this level, at any level, really, it's something that you have to deal with, and part of it. I understand that, and it's unfortunate, but I can't afford to feel sorry for myself or sulk. It's part of it, and I'll be fine. I'll bounce back, attack the rehab process like I have anything else and come back stronger."
The Giants held a 2-7 record at the time of Jones’ injury. Little has improved behind backup quarterback Tommy DeVito, who picked up his first win with a 31-19 victory over the Washington Commanders on Sunday.
Jones will remain sidelined with 108 completions for 909 yards and two touchdowns.
The New York Jets organization was rejuvenated with the addition of four-time league MVP Aaron Rodgers during the offseason.
But it took just four plays for it all to come crashing down.
In his debut with the Jets on Sept. 11, Rodgers ruptured his Achilles, and with it, the Jets’ hopes of making the playoffs for the first time since 2010.
"I feel more for Aaron than anyone," head coach Robert Saleh said at the time. "He has invested so much into this organization, so much into this journey that he’s embarked on and wanting to be a part of what we have got going here and how much he’s invested to not only this organization but his teammates, himself, this fanbase, this city."
"I have a lot of emotions for him. As for us, it’s really all about him, it is. I don’t look at it like, ‘Woe is me here for the organization.’ I think guys are excited about being able to step up and continue the things that we’ve been building, but a lot of hurt for Aaron."
Rodgers raised eyebrows with his seemingly speedy recovery and rehab process. His move from a boot to no cast to throwing on the field before games raised questions about if the former Packers star might be fit for a return this season and if it would be worth it.
Rodgers has repeatedly hinted at making a return this season, and according to one report, he’s eyeing mid-December.
"If I have a great week this week and next week, that could be accelerated," Rodgers said on "The Pat McAfee Show" last week. "If we’re not in it in three or four weeks, that could take it a different way. But I expect us to be in it and I expect to come back."
The Jets suffered a blowout loss to the Buffalo Bills on Sunday, falling to 4-6. On Monday, Saleh confirmed that the Jets would be demoting Zach Wilson to third-string quarterback in favor of Tim Boyle for Friday’s game against the AFC East-leading Miami Dolphins.
It seems the Jets are hoping to turn things around, perhaps just in time for Rodgers’ return.
The Associated Press contributed to this report.
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