Bengals tight end C.J. Uzomah won’t even consider the alternative.
He’ll be playing in the Super Bowl regardless of the sprained MCL in his left knee he suffered in the first half of the AFC Championship game against the Chiefs.
“I’m not missing the biggest game of my life,” Uzomah said Monday. “I’m not missing it. That’s my approach going every day into rehab.”
Uzomah didn’t practice last week and the team didn’t practice fully Monday before the Bengals travel to LA on Tuesday. He has done some rehab work with the Cincinnati training staff.
He’s been a key piece in the Bengals’ first playoff run in 31 years. In the first two playoff wins, Uzomah had 13 catches for 135 yards and a touchdown. He was carted off the field in Kansas City.
“I had tears in my eyes because I wasn’t being able to play, more so than just the pain,” he said. “I was upset I wasn’t going to be able to go out there and compete with the guys and help on the field, win the AFC championship.”
When it was suggested by a reporter that the Rams were the team people expected to be in the Super Bowl and the Bengals are the surprise team, Cincinnati coach Zac Taylor’s words were brash, but they were delivered in a very matter-of-fact fashion.
“We expected to be here,” Taylor said. “We’ve known what team we’ve had all along. We have never surprised ourselves, I can promise you that. We’ll let everyone else paint the picture of what this game means to the outside world. But to us, we expected to be here. We’ve known we had a great team.”
No drought about it
Taylor said he has not used the Bengals’ 31-year drought without a playoff win as motivation for his team at all this postseason.
“We’re very proud of the history here,” he said. “You look back over the decade and there’s been some tremendous teams, coaches, players, memories. But for these players, it’s important to embrace all that, but this is the 2021 Cincinnati Bengals. They weren’t a part of that. So, they have a very narrow focus on week-to-week. Those are things they can reflect back on after the season when all the work is done, how memorable and special this has been.
“Right now, we’ve got bigger things to focus on. Later on, they can reflect and say, ‘Man, this team hadn’t won a playoff game in 30 years. I’m glad to be a part of that.’ But that hasn’t been what we’ve talked about, that hasn’t been our focus. Those are things we can reflect on later.”
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Apple of their eye
The Bengals have made this run with key contributions from some former Giants players, including cornerback Eli Apple, who was a bust in blue.
“I think with Eli, consistency at the corner level is so key, and he’s brought that to us,” Taylor said. “He’s got a lot of confidence in himself. He’s done a great job working through practices. We’re really happy to have Eli. He’s been a part of so many big plays — especially lately, in December and January, to help put us in this position.”
Back on the job
Eric Weddle unretired on Jan. 12 to join the Rams’ depleted secondary in time for their playoff run. After a 12-year career with the Chargers and Ravens worthy of strong Hall of Fame consideration, Weddle led the Rams with nine tackles in the NFC Championship game.
So, how will he celebrate one of the greatest couch-to-champion stories if the Rams win the Super Bowl?
“Probably change my name to Champ or World Champ,” he said, “then go back to kid duty.”
Rams’ injury woes
Rams coach Sean McVay expressed optimism that DT Sebastian Joseph-Day and RB Darrell Henderson will be available for the Super Bowl, but he cast doubt over TE Tyler Higbee and OT Joe Noteboom. Asked if Higbee will be able to practice after spraining his MCL in the NFC Championship game, McVay said, “I don’t think so.”