As president Mike Brown and head trainer Paul Sparling. Sparling returns to the big game with an NFL Comeback Player of the Year in Burrow, Sparling’s first who came back from an injury.
Sparling oversaw Burrow’s rehab from ACL surgery and with director of rehab Nick Cosgray doing the day-to-day, Burrow took the first snap of training camp. It will be recalled Burrow had a rough first couple of weeks of camp as he tried to get acclimated to the bodies flying around his leg.
“He wasn’t himself,” Sparling said. “He had to knock off the rust. It takes time. You can do all the exercises you want, but until you deal with the real bullets, it’s more mental than physical.”
Sparling has a unique perspective. He was in the volatile Super Bowl XVI training room when tempers were short about who was getting taped first because the team buses were delayed by icy roads and a motorcade for vice president George HW Bush.
He says Burrow would be a great poker player.
“He’ll keep it close to the vest. If he has certain feelings. He’s not going to let you know it,” Sparling said.
How close to the vest? Burrow doesn’t even talk to his parents very much about his injuries. If he’s getting hit during a game, Sparling never sees a flash of anger.
“I’ve never really seen a guy like him,” Sparling said. “He’s got some Kenny in him. He’s got some Boomer in him. But he’s got a lot of Joe in him. He’s unrattalable. He’s stoic, he’s got a strut and a determination and focus to him. He doesn’t let things distract him from the next play.”
You Never Know Who You Might Meet at a Super Bowl:
The morning he was announced as part of the Pro Football Hall of Fame class of 2022, former Jaguars left tackle Tony Boselli hit radio row and was glad to talk about the other offensive lineman who was on the ballot. It turned out that Boselli made it and Bengals all-time right tackle Willie Anderson didn’t when the results were announced Thursday night.
But count Boselli as a guy that thinks Anderson should be in. Cleveland’s Joe Thomas is now looming, but Anderson has that all-important finalist appearance on the ballot. Boselli, whose career was cut short by injury and played half the games Anderson did, was a finalist six times before he got in.
“Willie Anderson is one of the greatest players of all-time. A big, physical right tackle,” Boselli said. “They had great running attacks when he was there. But he was a little underrated with his athletic ability, his footwork. It’s changing now. It’s not always the left tackle who is the pass protector and the right tackle the grinder. You have to do both and Willie’s a guy who could do both at a high level.
“I have a ton of respect for Willie. I love what he’s doing for the game, coaching and teaching young guys. Any time you get to be a finalist, you’re a great player. I hope he gets in.” †