*Above video shows fans showing up 48 hours early for Sunday’s Browns and Bengals game*
CINCINNATI, Ohio (AP) — For Christmas last year, Cincinnati’s Joe Burrow gifted his offensive line with luxury cruises. Expectations may be greater when the holidays arrive this year after he became the highest paid NFL player just three days before the season opener against the Cleveland Browns.
“I’m sure once Christmastime rolls around, we’ll kind of chide him a little bit,” Karras joked. “But he’s always hooked us up unbelievably, just on his rookie deal. With a max deal, we’ll see what we get.”
Burrow, in his first comments to reporters since becoming the highest-paid player in the NFL, said contract negotiations weren’t a distraction as he worked to rehab from a training camp injury and then game plan for Sunday’s opener at Cleveland.
“I’ve always been pretty good at compartmentalizing things that are important to me,” the 26-year-old said Saturday at a news conference.
Burrow finalized his contract extension on Thursday before the Bengals’ buses left for Cleveland. A person familiar with the deal told The Associated Press that Burrow agreed to a five-year contract worth $275 million, including more than $219 million guaranteed.
“I work really hard to perform well on the field and think a lot about how I handle myself and how I can be the best me for this organization,” he said. “So to be rewarded for it means a lot to me — but (there’s) a lot more to do.”
Burrow, who is beginning his fourth season in the NFL, has reversed the fortunes of the franchise while earning a reputation as a decisive and creative leader with a knack for figuring out how to pick up yards when plays break down. He has led Cincinnati to two straight AFC North titles and a Super Bowl appearance.
Burrow missed most of training camp with a strained calf muscle but returned to practice last week.
Burrow said after signing he took a deep breath and celebrated “for about five minutes.”
“You’re the highest-paid (player) for a certain amount of time until the next person breaks it,” he said. “You try to do as good for yourself as you can and then continue about your business. We’re all about winning here.”
Cincinnati enter Ted Karras said the offensive linemen were having dinner together Thursday night when word of the extension arrived.
“Really I’m just glad we got it done by Week 1, so we can settle in and not really talk about it anymore and go to Cleveland to win,” Karras said.