Chargers’ Gus Bradley won’t be friendly with Joe Burrow until after Sunday’s game

COSTA MESA — Chargers defensive coordinator Gus Bradley asked his players who recently played at Ohio State for a scouting report on quarterback Joe Burrow.

This was way before Bradley was scheduled to face Burrow in an NFL game. Bradley’s Chargers and Burrow’s Bengals will meet Sunday for the season opener in Cincinnati.

This was last year before Burrow had arguably the greatest college season ever for a quarterback.

Bradley wasn’t planning ahead for facing Burrow at the pro level. At the time, it wasn’t even a guarantee that Burrow would be drafted. Bradley was curious because he’s a friend of the Burrow family.

Former Chargers quarterback Cardale Jones played with Burrow at Ohio State before Burrow transferred to LSU.

“Boy, Gus, he is talented,” Bradley recalled Thursday of what Jones said about Burrow. “He’s a good player.”

Initially, Bradley didn’t tell Jones he was close with Burrow’s parents because he wanted an honest assessment.

“Just knowing (Burrow), and knowing how competitive he was, you thought if he just got an opportunity, good things would happen,” Bradley said. “Obviously, what took place (at LSU), I don’t think anybody really pictured that.”

Jimmy and Robin Burrow probably also didn’t picture their son facing their family friend for his NFL debut.

Bradley and Jimmy Burrow were coaches at North Dakota State while young Joe was in elementary school. Bradley remembers seeing the future Heisman trophy winner run around the field in Fargo, North Dakota.

“You can see it in him,” Bradley said. “He grew up as a coach’s son and just his mindset throughout. … We have a good idea of the type of mentality he has. I know he’s extremely competitive. He’s a really strong leader. He’ll have a presence for that team.”

Burrow told Bengals reporters he has only attended one NFL game and that was because Bradley gave his family tickets to watch the Seattle Seahawks against the Cleveland Browns. Bradley was the Seahawks’ defensive coordinator at the time.

Now, the 2020 No. 1 overall pick will try to pick apart Bradley’s defense in the second NFL game he’s attending.

Bradley said he studied film of Burrow at LSU and film of the Rams in 2017 and 2018 because Bengals coach Zac Taylor was an assistant coach there during that span. The Chargers needed to go deep in the archives because they’ve never seen a Burrow-led Bengals offense.

“We know unexpected things will show up,” Bradley said. “He’s got great touch. He can throw the deep ball. He’s got really good poise in the pocket. … He’s looking downfield when scrambling. Always looking for the big play. He’s seen a lot of football. I know he’s a guy that will prepare.”

But not having a preseason could also hurt Burrow, who has to face Bradley’s star-studded defense that includes Melvin Ingram, Casey Hayward, Chris Harris Jr. and Joey Bosa, a former teammate of Burrow at Ohio State.

Bradley often reached out to Burrow’s parents for updates on him throughout his college career. He spoke to Burrow in the lead up to the draft as a coach and friend.

The Chargers were in search of a quarterback, but Burrow wasn’t available after the Bengals took him first. The Chargers went with Justin Herbert at No. 6 overall.

Bradley, however, isn’t planning to catch up with Burrow before the game. That will come later.

“It’s just a great family,” Bradley said. “I’m not going to (talk to Burrow). Not until after the game.”

INJURY UPDATES

Center Mike Pouncey didn’t practice Thursday for the second consecutive day because of a hip injury.

Right tackle Bryan Bulaga was a new addition to the injury report and was limited with a hamstring injury.

Wide receiver Mike Williams (shoulder) was limited for the second consecutive practice.