Ben BabyESPN staff writer5 minutes to read
On his first day of offseason practice, the veteran wide receiver met reporters for the first time since losing the AFC Championship to Kansas City, suffering a deep bruise to his groin early in the second quarter of the 23-20 loss. Boyd said he would have finished the match if he had been at least 80% healthy.
He said what bothered him the most was the feeling that he had let the team down.
“To this day, I feel if I had played the whole game, I would have been the main factor,” Boyd said. “We were going to win the match.”
At the time of the injury, Boyd had made two catches for 40 yards. He appeared to struggle with the injury after his 24-yard completion. On a big gain end, Boyd’s left leg was caught under Kansas City safety Justin Reed as Reed made a tackle. When Boyd stood up following the play, he immediately favored his left leg.
Boyd said he tried various ailments such as numbing cream and ibuprofen to get back on the field but was unable to play in the second half. He added that he did not want to return to the field and get out of the rhythm with midfielder Joe Burrow.
“I just felt like we had enough depth for guys like that [Trenton Irwin] “I wish I was able to do it, but things happen,” Boyd said on Tuesday.
Losing Boyd is a major challenge, said Bengals coach Zack Taylor, given how well Kansas City has lined up two teams with the team’s outside receivers Ty Higgins and Jamar Chase.
Throughout his career, Boyd’s ability to fight has been documented through injuries. In Week 16 of the 2019 season, Boyd staggered to the line of scrimmage despite being dealt a serious muscle cramp, a move that allowed Cincinnati to score a touchdown at the end of regulation. Last year, Boyd missed the 15th week due to a dislocated finger where a bone went through the skin. He returned for the rest of the team’s games, including the entire postseason.
“Football is a pain,” Boyd said on December 15. “You’ll get beat up. You’ll get up the next morning anyway.”
Boyd is one of the few players to remain on the roster since the 2019 season, when the Bengals had the worst record in the NFL. If the team decides to drop Boyd, the Bengals earn roughly $8.9 in salary cap space while racking up just $1.4 million in dead money, according to the roster management system. However, Boyd received no indication that he would not play the final year of his current contract with the team that drafted him in 2016.
“They love me up front [office]Boyd said. They respect me. I do things the right way. You come up with a great attitude every day. I don’t complain much. I go there and do my job. It’s a love and family thing.”
Taylor echoed that sentiment after Boyd’s first practice, which featured very light drills as the Bengals neared the end of Phase 2 casual practices. The fifth-year coach said Boyd had summed up the basic principles of team culture, from daily consistency to openness and honesty when asked about his thoughts on the team.
“It was about who we want to be, every step of the way,” Taylor said. “When this crew came here in 2019, it was one of those guys who is always, always, everything you need from a coach.”
The team that was the worst in the NFL during Taylor’s first year with Boyd has now played in the championships in back-to-back seasons. Cincinnati bolstered this offensive line in the offseason, adding former Kansas City tackle Orlando Brown Jr. in March during free agency.
“I love it because we have a nice little rivalry with the Chiefs,” Boyd said. “Just seeing him come on, you know, it’s like, ‘We’re all ahead of you,’ but at the end of the day, he’s a great player no matter where he was going.”
Boyd and the Bengals are looking to get back into the AFC title game for another Super Bowl showdown, a game the Bengals lost at the end of the 2021 campaign.
Boyd enters the season ranked fifth in receptions in franchise history (446) and ninth in total receiving yards (5,333). But numbers and money are not the top priority as Boyd approaches what could be his final year with the club.
“I just want to win, and that’s the biggest evolution of coming here and starting here and being where I am,” Boyd said. “We’re a winning franchise now and we’re going to keep winning. We’re getting better.”
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