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Bengals WR Ja'Marr Chase on QB Joe Burrow (calf): 'I don't want him there' in Week 1 if he's not 100%

Joe Burrow's calf injury has thrown the start of the 2023 season into question for the Bengals.

An average timetable for return would place Burrow in line to be back in time for the Bengals' Week 1 opener at Cleveland. But it's a long season, and Burrow's top running mate, receiver Ja'Marr Chase, would rather Burrow ensure he's healthy than rush back to face a division rival.

"I told him that with all honesty I don't want him there," Chase said of Burrow on Friday's Inside Training Camp. "Same thing with me last year.

"I sat out an extra game just to let my hip all the way heal up, and you don't want to cause no other problems later on in the season, and I told him as long as you're there after Week 5 and on, we're good brother."

Cincinnati's first month isn't shaping up to be the most grueling four weeks of an NFL schedule, but does include key meetings with AFC North foes in the first two games. The Bengals start 2023 in Cleveland, where they haven't won since Burrow arrived in 2020, and they'll return home in Week 2 to face a Ravens team that they narrowly defeated on Super Wild Card Weekend last season.

Starting the season 0-2 wouldn't be ideal, of course, and will be much more difficult to avoid if Burrow cannot play. Chase knows the final record matters more than a couple of early games, but if he had it his way, he'd get Burrow right immediately. It's a sentiment supported by the fact that the Bengals started 0-2 last year before returning to the AFC Championship Game.

"I wish I did, man," Chase said when asked if he had healing hands for Burrow. "I'm looking at him every day, watching him every day, seeing his rehab, so you know he looks good right now, like I said when it first happened, I've seen his demeanor and the way that he felt I could already tell what happened to him. So he's in good hands, working well, getting his sleep in."

Cincinnati closes out the first month with a home contest against the Los Angeles Rams and a trip to Nashville to face the Tennessee Titans -- two teams that aren't expected to be among the NFL's elite in 2023 -- giving the Bengals a chance to build some momentum as they enter October.

They know their best -- and perhaps only -- chance of getting back to the Super Bowl is with Burrow in the lineup. Trevor Siemian, Jake Browning and Reid Sinnett exist as Cincinnati's remaining options if Burrow cannot go. Cincinnati is admittedly less intimidating with any of those quarterbacks in the lineup instead of Burrow.

Rehab is just as important as rest for players on the mend, and Chase likes what he sees from his quarterback. But in Chase's mind, patience is more important than urgency. He hopes Burrow takes his words to heart as he works his way back to the field.

"He just told me he's going to see how he feels when the time comes," Chase said. "You know, he doesn't know when he'll be back, but he'll be back soon."

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