Cincinnati Bengals quarterback Joe Burrow's wrist injury went into the conspiracy realm during Thursday night's game.
In the second quarter against the Baltimore Ravens, Burrow threw a touchdown but right after he let the pass go he reached down and grabbed his wrist in obvious pain. He tried to throw warmup passes on the sideline afterward but couldn't grip the ball. He didn't return to the game.
A separate conversation started when the Amazon Prime Video broadcast brought up a video, from WCPO, of Burrow getting off the team bus, and when the video was slowed down, Burrow could be seen with what looked like a brace on his right hand. Burrow wasn't listed on the injury report, and many fans wondered if the Bengals were playing games with the report.
Lots of talk about a deleted #Bengals post, which showed Joe Burrow wearing some type of brace or sleeve on his right wrist.
🎥 Here’s video of Burrow getting off the team bus in Baltimore.
Not a perfectly clear shot, but you can definitely see it on his hand.@WCPOpic.twitter.com/XcqX6oMODA
— Caleb Noe (@CalebNoeTV) November 16, 2023
The NFL wants an accurate injury report, and injury report shenanigans have become an even bigger focus with the growth of legal sports betting. The attention to Burrow not being on the injury report and whatever was on his hand and wrist getting off the team bus led the NFL to start an investigation, according to multiple reports, including ESPN and The Athletic. It's fairly normal for the NFL to look into any potential injury report violations. The league's investigation will include looking at practice video.
Some former players responded to the conspiracy Thursday night with a common refrain: Everyone is hurt in some way by November of an NFL season. Not everyone ends up on the injury report.
If you’ve taken all practice reps and you’ve started a game you’re not injured. Everyone is beat up this time of the season. https://t.co/tYK1i8hS1k
— Geoff Schwartz (@geoffschwartz) November 17, 2023
Former defensive lineman Chris Long posted a video on X showing that Burrow might have hurt his hand early in a Week 10 game when it got caught between a defensive lineman and his offensive lineman. Burrow didn't miss any plays, and Long downplayed the brace Burrow was wearing when the Bengals arrived in Baltimore. Burrow wasn't wearing anything on his hand or wrist when he arrived for the game.
"That doesn't mean he's hurting bad," Long said in the video. "A lot of times quarterbacks ding their hand throwing the ball during a game, bothers them for a week."
Burrow was not made available to the media after the game Thursday night, which is not unusual for an injured player. When Bengals coach Zac Taylor was asked after the game if Burrow was hurt before Thursday, he replied, "Not that I'm aware of."
Burrow did have his hand jammed into the turf when he was hit by Jadeveon Clowney of the Ravens the play before his touchdown pass. That play could have turned an injury that didn't cost Burrow any practice reps and wasn't bad enough to get treatment into something that knocked him out of Thursday's game.
Even if Burrow didn't miss practice reps, the Bengals might have erred in not listing him on the injury report if they knew his wrist was hurting. In the NFL injury report policy, it says injuries that don't cost a player any practice time "may be reportable because of their effect upon the player’s performance despite his continuing availability to the club." It specifically uses the example of a quarterback suffering an injury to his finger but staying in the game after treatment. Here's the passage from the NFL's policy:
"As one example, assume a club’s quarterback suffers an injury to a finger of his right (throwing) hand during the club’s first game of the season. After treatment, he is able to finish the game despite his injury. Given the injury’s effect upon the player’s performance, and the fact that he is a key player, the injury must be listed on the club’s Practice Report each day of the following week, even if the player takes all the reps in practice, and even if the club is certain that he will play in the club’s next game."
The Bengals might not have known about the injury and can also argue that before Clowney's hit, Burrow's performance wasn't affected. He was 11 of 17 for 101 yards and a touchdown, and the Bengals led when he left the game.
That will all be sorted out by the NFL. It can look into why Burrow was wearing a brace, whether he ever brought up an injury to the athletic training staff and whether he missed any practice time. Burrow's injury is the biggest story in the NFL after Thursday night, and the curiosity includes what happened with the Bengals' injury report.