It's time to put the notion that Joe Burrow wouldn't play for the Cincinnati Bengals to bed.
"The more information that I've got about them, the more excited I get about it if they do happen to pick me," he told Bleacher Report when asked about the team with the No. 1 pick in the 2020 NFL draft. "I think coach [Zac] Taylor is a rising star, and obviously I'll play for whoever drafts me. If I'm fortunate enough to go No. 1, I'm very excited about it."
It would be stunning if he doesn't go No. 1 after throwing for 5,671 yards and 60 touchdowns in his final collegiate season. In March, Bleacher Report's Matt Miller even wrote: "Very few things can be considered a lock given how unpredictable the NFL is, but this pick is a lock. Burrow can start apartment shopping in Cincinnati."
However, a narrative emerged this offseason that Burrow may not want to join Cincinnati should it follow expectations with that pick.
It generated a number of headlines, including when Mike Florio of ProFootballTalk tried to connect some dots and suggested in February that "Burrow may be thinking about trying to get the Bengals to not draft him—or to get someone else to trade up and get him."
If the fact that Burrow's parents said such a narrative is unsubstantiated didn't put Bengals fans at ease, the quarterback's clear excitement about the prospect of joining Cincinnati and playing for the 36-year-old Taylor should.
Bengals fans looking for Burrow's autograph if and when this becomes a reality should look no further than Fanatics.
The quarterback has joined the likes of Luka Doncic, Zion Williamson, Aaron Judge and other athletes in partnering with sports merchandising company Fanatics, which will be the exclusive distributor of his full collection of autographs, collectibles and memorabilia. These will start with LSU products and eventually include his NFL team too.
"If someone is willing to buy my autograph, I want it to be a brand that represents itself well and has a brand of authenticity, so they know that they're getting the real thing every time," Burrow said.
"I've always tried to show as much of myself as I can with the media because this is a media-driven and fan-driven league and game," he continued. "I think I always try to portray my brand as being easygoing, hardworking and being someone that everyone can relate to, and Fanatics has aligned itself along those same lines."
The question now is whether he will be signing autographs for Fanatics as a rookie starter or someone who needs some time to learn the ropes before taking over an offense.
Andy Dalton has been largely entrenched as the Bengals' starter since his rookie year in 2011 but was in and out of the lineup last season. He could very well be traded this offseason considering he has been linked to multiple teams in the past, per Ian Rapoport of NFL Network. Even if Dalton isn't traded, Burrow is fine competing for a starting spot with him or another veteran quarterback.
"That doesn't bother me at all," he said when asked about a potential quarterback battle. "The more information, the more I can learn from people that have done it already, the better for me. I plan on playing for a long time, and I want to gather as much information as I can from as many people as I can that have been in this situation."
He may be comfortable learning from a veteran until he is ready to start, but Cincinnati likely won't be drafting him to sit on the bench.
Turning that franchise into a winner will not be an easy task if he's given the keys, as the Bengals are coming off a 2-14 campaign and failed to make the postseason for the fourth straight year. Their last playoff win came in the 1990 season, and they have never won a Super Bowl.
Burrow believes the adversity he faced during his collegiate career will help him deal with the upcoming challenge.
"I had to face a lot of adversity, and that's something that I've carried with me and continue to carry with me," he said. "I think it will enable me to handle adverse situations better than most early in my career just because I've already done it; it's already happened. The journey that I've been on translates really well to the league, especially when I plan on going high in the draft. The teams up there are picking there for a reason; there's going to be ups and downs. You just gotta stay even-keeled and go about your business the right way."
The Ohio native started his collegiate career at the state's flagship program and surely envisioned leading the Ohio State Buckeyes to a national championship. However, he found himself playing behind multiple quarterbacks and missed an opportunity to work his way up the depth chart when he broke a bone in his hand during training camp prior to the 2017 season.
That set the stage for Dwayne Haskins to be J.T. Barrett's primary backup and eventually win the starting job in 2018, which opened the door for Burrow to transfer to LSU.
His subsequent success with the Tigers as a Heisman Trophy winner and national champion became the stuff of college football legend, and Bengals fans will be hoping he follows suit in the NFL if they draft him.
If he does, those Fanatics autographs will be in high demand.