All eyes are on the progress of Joe Burrow this offseason. Having suffered a devastating knee injury that ended his impressive rookie season for the Cincinnati Bengals -- tearing both his ACL and MCL as well as damaging his PCL and meniscus in Week 11 against the Washington Football Team -- right now it's all about rehabbing to return to the field. It's a slow and steady process following the required surgery to repair the damage, but the 24-year-old likes where he is at the moment, considering he also has several months to go before training camp and ultimately the start of the regular season.
And, as it stands, the latter is exactly what he's eyeing -- having circled Week 1 on his calendar.
"I'm very optimistic about where I'm at and also where the team is at," Burrow told "The Cris Collinsworth Podcast" recently. "Rehab is going very, very well and lifting is going very, very well. I'm in great shape. Legs feel good; knee feels good.
"There's still a long way to go, but I'm expecting to be there on the first snap of 2021. I'm expecting to play Game 1. I expect to take part in practice. I'm feeling really good.
"I'm ahead of schedule. I can't roll out and throw yet, but it's feeling good right now.""
That's an outlook echoed by head coach Zac Taylor.
"I know that he's on pace to do all the things that we were hoping he'd do," Taylor said in March.
And Bengals director of player personnel Duke Tobin agrees wholeheartedly.
"The good news is with Joe, what I've seen around here is he's attacking it full speed and looks great and so it's been very positive seeing him fight back," he added. "It looks very positive for the future and for this coming season for Joe."
As Burrow continues his recovery and remains locked into trying to be 100 percent before the start of the season, and hoping to avoid any setbacks in the process, he and the Bengals are keyed in on what will happen on April 29 in Cleveland, when the 2021 NFL Draft gets underway.
Owners of the No. 5 pick, Cincinnati has a wealth of options, but two in particular stand out -- albeit for different reasons. One such option is offensive tackle Penei Sewell, who could get the nod as a means of helping to protect Burrow for the next half decade or more, a point made more poignant by the aforementioned injury. They might also have a shot at the highly-touted Kyle Pitts, but then there's wide receiver Ja'Marr Chase, arguably the best in the class and hailing from LSU, where he and Burrow together led the Tigers on a magical national championship ride in 2019 that also ended with Burrow being awarded the Heisman Trophy before being selected first-overall by the Bengals last April.
As for which option Burrow would prefer, he's not saying, nor is he pounding the table behind the scenes for one or the other.
"I'm not watching film on any of these guys," Burrow said, via the team's website. "I've just seen highlights. The organization knows more than I do and will make the best pick. I trust the organization to do what they do and do their jobs and pick the best player.
"I think we're in a good spot to take just the best available, especially after the free agency we had. We got a lot of really good players that are going to be a lot of help on defense, and Riley Reiff at tackle is going to help us a lot."
Similar to the pick the Bengals made last year, their next one will help frame their franchise for a decade. Burrow and the rest of the free world will find out in a few days what the team decides to do, and whomever gets the nod will hopefully join the young quarterback on the practice field later this summer -- if not shortly thereafter.