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Notebook: Bengals TE C.J. Uzomah (knee) plans to play in Super Bowl

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Jan 15, 2022; Cincinnati, Ohio, USA; Cincinnati Bengals tight end C.J. Uzomah (87) runs onto the field before to the game against the Las Vegas Raiders in an AFC Wild Card playoff football game at Paul Brown Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Katie Stratman-USA TODAY Sports
Jan 15, 2022; Cincinnati, Ohio, USA; Cincinnati Bengals tight end C.J. Uzomah (87) runs onto the field before to the game against the Las Vegas Raiders in an AFC Wild Card playoff football game at Paul Brown Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Katie Stratman-USA TODAY Sports

It’s going to take a lot to keep Cincinnati Bengals tight end C.J. Uzomah from suiting up Sunday and playing in Super Bowl LVI against the Los Angeles Rams.

Uzomah was carted to the locker room during the AFC Championship on Jan. 30 with a left knee injury, later diagnosed as an MCL sprain despite how ugly it looked at first blush.

“It’s the Super Bowl. I’m doing everything I can,” Uzomah said with a grin Monday. “I don’t really care too much about how I’m feeling, to be honest, when I’m out there. … To me, I’m like, ‘Alright, I’m not missing the biggest game of my life.’ Right? I’m not missing it.”

Uzomah has yet to return to practices with the team since the 27-24 win over the Kansas City Chiefs. On Saturday, reporters at Bengals practice spotted him working out on the side, including riding a stationary bike.

Uzomah said he is working with Cincinnati’s director of rehabilitation and performance, Nick Cosgray, to determine how he should proceed, asking him questions about whether he could risk structural damage if he did too much too soon.

But he insisted he’s feeling “really, really good.”

Uzomah, 29, had 13 receptions for 135 yards and one touchdown in Cincinnati’s first two playoff victories. The seven-year veteran who has spent his entire career with the Bengals established career bests of 49 receptions, 493 yards and five touchdowns in 16 games during the regular season.

–The Bengals may be a new face in the heights of the NFL hierarchy, but coach Zac Taylor said his players, though young, are mature and will rise to the occasion Sunday.

That’s because he and director of player personnel Duke Tobin took very deliberate tactics to build the current roster with a championship in mind.

“They’re not overwhelmed by these moments. … That’s why we’ve spent a lot of time with Duke Tobin building the team this way,” Taylor explained. “It’s a lot of guys who’ve played in championships in college, whether it was at LSU or Clemson or Alabama or Ohio State. And then a lot of these free agents we’ve signed have been a part of playoff teams before. These guys, they know they belong on this stage and we know we’re gonna get their best on Sunday.”

The College Football Playoff experience shows up everywhere from quarterback Joe Burrow and receiver Ja’Marr Chase, who won a national championship together at LSU, to receiver Tee Higgins (Clemson) and defensive lineman Khalid Kareem (Notre Dame).

–The Bengals are perhaps known best for their dynamic group of wide receivers. Chase broke rookie records on his way to finishing fourth in the NFL with 1,455 yards and third with 13 touchdown catches. Tee Higgins has made a name for himself on the opposite side.

But another vital part of their receiving corps has been Tyler Boyd, who has made 77 straight catches without a drop, according to NFL Network.

“It’s actually a privilege to be playing in the National Football League, you know, so every time I step foot out there, I’m gonna prove to myself and prove to everybody why I deserve to be there,” Boyd said. “With Joey B’s help, it makes everything easier because he’s so smart and he understands football.”

Burrow, in turn, said Boyd was a “very underrated” part of the Bengals’ high-powered offense.

“I wish he would get more love, because he’s one of the best slot guys in the league,” Burrow said. “He really understands what we’re trying to do on each play, and he’s always where I expect him to be — and he never drops a ball.”

–Burrow was asked point-blank if he ever thought about rejecting the then-woeful Bengals before the 2020 NFL Draft, when he was the presumptive first pick. The star quarterback’s response was swift.

“No, I never thought about telling the Bengals not to draft me or anything like that,” Burrow said. “I was just happy to be in the position that I was in, being the potential No. 1 pick. That was exciting for me. I would never throw that opportunity away.”

It’s hard to imagine now that Burrow has helped turn Cincinnati into a Super Bowl contender, but because of the franchise’s hard luck and terrible 2019 season that saw them finish 2-14, some corners of social media suggested that Burrow should in fact avoid the Bengals at all costs.

Burrow’s own comments at the NFL scouting combine were interpreted by some as a lack of enthusiasm for playing for Cincinnati: “Yeah, I’m not going to not play. I’m a ballplayer. Whoever picks me, I’m going to go show up.”

–Field Level Media