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Joe Burrow says he’ll play for Bengals if they draft him with first overall pick

LSU quarterback Joe Burrow spoke with reporters Tuesday at the NFL scouting combine in Indianapolis. (Michael Conroy/AP)
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INDIANAPOLIS — Joe Burrow, the Heisman Trophy-winning quarterback from LSU, said Tuesday that he is willing to play for the Cincinnati Bengals if they select him with the top pick in the NFL draft.

“Yeah, I’m not going to not play,” Burrow said during his meeting with reporters at the NFL scouting combine. “I’m a ballplayer. Whoever picks me, I’m going to go show up.”

Burrow’s comments seemed to put to rest recent speculation that he might refuse to play for the Bengals and attempt to orchestrate a different beginning spot for his NFL career.

“The only thing that I’ve said is I just didn’t want to be presumptuous about the pick,” Burrow said. “And so that’s why I’ve been noncommittal because I don’t know what’s going to happen. They might not pick me. They might fall in love with someone else. So you guys kind of took that narrative and ran with it. But there’s never been anything like that from my end.”

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Burrow had been less definitive in his previous comments about his willingness to play in Cincinnati. And he wouldn’t have been the first star quarterback to manipulate the draft process. John Elway was traded to the Denver Broncos in 1983 after refusing to play for the Baltimore Colts, who selected him first overall. The San Diego Chargers chose Eli Manning first overall in 2004 but traded him to the New York Giants after Manning’s family and representatives made it clear that he had no desire to play in San Diego.

Elway and Manning will not be joined by Burrow, it appears.

“I think with any quarterback, fit [with his prospective team] is really important,” Burrow said. “But you don’t have a lot of say in that in the draft. Whoever picks you, picks you. And you’ve got to go play. So I’m going to try to make whoever picks me work. I think that my skill set is really diverse [and] can fit in a lot of different schemes. So I’m going to try to be the best player I can for whoever drafts me.”

Burrow is the presumptive No. 1 choice in this draft after a spectacular final college season in which he led LSU to the College Football Playoff championship while operating in an offense orchestrated by Joe Brady, a former New Orleans Saints assistant coach who has returned to the NFL as offensive coordinator of the Carolina Panthers. Burrow’s development in that offense, from being an afterthought as a former transfer from Ohio State to being a Heisman-winning star, was rapid.

“I mean, it’s been a crazy six to eight months, however you want to look at it,” Burrow said. “A lot of hard work went into it, and I had great people around me. … [LSU] had 16 guys here this week. And so we had talented players all over the field that were mature and worked really hard.”

Burrow grew up in Ohio, began his college career at Ohio State and pointed out Tuesday that he could make the trek from Cincinnati to his house in a little more than two hours and be home for dinner some nights if he wanted. He had not met with the Bengals at the combine as of Tuesday morning but said he expects to do so at some point this week.

“We’re just going to talk ball, just like every other team,” Burrow said. “I’m excited to get to know what their offense looks like, what they see for me, what they see that I can get better at something. I’m asking all these teams when I’m interviewing with them, ‘What do you think I can get better at?’ Because I’m always trying to learn, always trying to improve.”

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