(Reuters) – Cincinnati Bengals quarterback Joe Burrow, whose talent is matched by an ice-cold demeanour, said on Monday he is calmer ahead of his first Super Bowl appearance than he was prior to playing in his high school state championship.
There is no shortage of players who have been overwhelmed by playing on the NFL’s biggest stage but the 25-year-old Burrow feels no added jitters ahead of the Bengals’ Sunday showdown against the hometown Los Angeles Rams.
“Obviously the players get better and the schemes get better and everything, but at the end of the day your mindset stays the same,” Burrow said during a virtual news conference.
“When I played in the state championship in high school it feels the same as playing in the Super Bowl does now.
“Just at that moment in my life that was the biggest game that I had ever played in and everything kind of feels the same. I’ve just had more reps in those situations so I am probably even a little calmer.”
Under the direction of Burrow, a confident quarterback who has displayed a precocious ability to thrive under pressure, the Bengals have become just the third team to reach the Super Bowl two years after finishing with the NFL’s worst record.
Given Burrow’s ability to quickly adapt to the complexities of NFL defences, some might expect him and the Bengals to enjoy multiple trips to the Super Bowl but the Ohio native is not taking anything for granted.
“You see guys who go entire careers without ever even getting to a Super Bowl, so when you do get there you do really have to hunker down and take advantage of those opportunities,” said Burrow, who is scheduled to arrive in Los Angeles with his team on Tuesday.
“We have a team that’s capable of doing that … we are doing a great job of eliminating the distractions that come with a Super Bowl and it’s going to get heavier when we get to L.A. but I think we have the guys that are capable of doing it.”
Burrow has enjoyed a meteoric rise since being selected by a long-suffering Bengals franchise with the first overall pick of the 2020 NFL Draft.
The quarterback with pinpoint accuracy said his confidence starts with a strong locker room culture where every player on the team has the utmost belief in each other.
“I am not afraid to make mistakes because I know our defence is going to pick us up if we do, so that allows me to go out and play freely and not be scared to throw an interception or miss a throw,” said Burrow.
“And our defence plays the same way knowing that the offence is going to pick them up if they are down, and so I think we just play great team football together and that starts with the culture in the locker room.”
(This story corrects spelling of Burrow in headline and text)
(Reporting by Frank Pingue in Toronto; Editing by Christian Radnedge)