The Cincinnati Bengals have quite impressively managed to get Joe Burrow fully cleared in time for training camp ahead of next season. When the team conditioning test made it late last month, rehab director Nick Cosgray carried out his typical routine, although it was not the typical day.
The team witnessed Trey Hopkins pass their test to be fully cleared just seven months after an ACL tear. And, when the first official camp practice got underway, both Burrow and Hopkins touched the football on the first snap.
After the affair was over, safeties coach Robert Livingston called Cosgray over. Cosgray also helped nurse defensive tackle D.J. Reader back to health from a quad injury.
“He said, ‘Nick, today was your Super Bowl,’” Cosgray told The Athletic. “And you know what, yeah, it kind of is. When those guys are able to get back out there and you see them and you see them succeed and do well it is kind of like the Super Bowl.”
As for the actual Super Bowl, the Bengals are 100/1 where it pertains to NFL odds but, with Burrows a top QB in the league, they will take their chances
Cosgray, along with head trainer Paul Sparling and assistants Dan Willen, Roberto Cardona and Michael Houk are unknown to most Bengals fans – as is strength and conditioning coach Joey Boese. However, they are considered to be the most important persons within the organization, as far as the players are concerned.
Hopkins’ praising Crosgray in front of reporters on the first day of camp is all you needed to see to understand the high regard he’s held in.
“Especially Nick,” he said. “Me and Nick everyday are just really grinding and having that goal in mind that I want to be back. Nick let me know it’s going to be tough, I’m going to push you when necessary, we got to be smart about things, we got to be smart about everything. And guys, I feel great. I can’t say thank you enough to Nick and all the guys.”
Hopkins’ surgery was done by team doctor Marc Galloway and he stayed in Cincinnati for rehab with Cosgray and the team trainers. The above isn’t just a show of gratitude, it also speaks to the level of trust between player and rehab staff. Players don’t necessarily stick around their teams for surgery and rehab but when you see a player recover from a torn ACL in such a short space of time with no outside help involved, it speaks volumes.
“Attaining the trust of the athlete: That’s critical,” Sparling told the publication. “If you don’t have the trust of the athlete you are better off sending them someplace else, to be quite honest. It takes time to develop that trust.”
The staff didn’t have that time with Burrow, who had his operation done in Los Angeles and could have chosen to soak it up over there while rehabbing. He opted to head back to Cincinnati, however, placing himself in the care of Cosgray and company.
“Well, if anybody said there wasn’t pressure they’d be frickin’ lying,” the head trainer said. “You got a lot of people counting on you.”
“Some of the requests that come along when you are dealing with a guy: ‘Can we film this part of his rehab? Can we do this? People are interested, people want to know.’ Sometimes for guys like us, myself, Joe, we don’t care,” Cosgray added. “I don’t care that the people want to know how Joe is doing. I understand that side of it but to me, Joe and I know how he is doing and he’s making progress and I don’t care that everybody needs to know how he is doing.”
Burrows appeared to make easy work of his speedy rehab but there were more difficult challenges on the mental side as it wasn’t all that comfortable having to practice in front of everyone after such a layoff.
“Somebody just came in and said one of our players did an interview today and said something about Joe, ‘Holy crap, it’s all over now that he’s not comfortable,’” Cosgray remarked. “C’mon, who’s not comfortable coming back from nine months and an injury like he had? Nobody is comfortable yet. It’s a process. You get comfortable by doing it … What are we looking at now that’s saying he’s not still exceeding expectations?
“The guy is back out there on the field after a really significant injury prior to nine months, he’s running around, he’s cutting, he’s throwing deep balls, shorts balls. He’s an NFL quarterback less than nine months after a significant injury. Everybody probably wants him to be completing every single pass but I think he is where needs to be at this stage in the game. We have how many weeks before the season starts? To me, I watch him out there and I think he is doing extremely well.”