In his first day of offseason workouts, the veteran wide receiver met with reporters for the first time since the AFC championship loss to Kansas City, where he suffered a deep thigh bruise early in the second quarter of the 23-20 loss. Boyd said he would have finished the game if he was at least 80% healthy.
He said what bothered him the most was the feeling that he let the team down.
"Still to this day, I feel like if I would have played the whole game, I was the key factor," Boyd said. "We would've won the game."
At the time of the injury, Boyd had two catches for 40 yards. He appeared to suffer the injury following a 24-yard completion. At the end of a big gain, Boyd's left leg was caught beneath Kansas City safety Justin Reid as Reid made the 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 not able to play in the second half. He added that he didn't want to get back on the field and be out of rhythm with quarterback Joe Burrow.
"I just felt like we had enough depth for guys like [Trenton Irwin] and other guys to come in and play at a faster pace than what I felt like I could do," Boyd said on Tuesday. "I wish I was able to do it, but things happen."
Bengals coach Zac Taylor, the team's offensive playcaller, said that losing Boyd presented a key challenge given how much Kansas City was double-teaming the team's outside receivers, Tee Higgins and Ja'Marr Chase.
Throughout his career, Boyd's ability to fight through injuries has been well documented. In Week 16 of the 2019 season, Boyd staggered to the line of scrimmage despite dealing with a serious cramp, a move that allowed Cincinnati to score a tying touchdown at the end of regulation. Last year, Boyd missed Week 15 because of a dislocated finger where a bone came through the skin. He returned for the rest of the team's games, including the entire postseason.
"Football is pain," Boyd said on Dec. 15. "You're going to get hit. You're going to wake up sore the next morning anyways."
Boyd is one a few players who has remained on the roster since the 2019 season, when the Bengals had the worst record in the NFL. If the team decides to cut Boyd, the Bengals gain roughly $8.9 in salary cap space while incurring just $1.4 million in dead money, according to Roster Management System. However, Boyd has not received any indication that he will not play the final year of his current contract with the team that drafted him in 2016.
"They love me in the front [office]," Boyd said. "They respect me. I go about things the right way. I come in with a great attitude each and every day. I don't complain as much. I go out there and do my job. It's a love, family thing."
Taylor echoed that sentiment after Boyd's first practice, which featured very light drills as the Bengals approach the end of Phase 2 of offseason workouts. The fifth-year coach said Boyd has encapsulated the primary tenets of the team's culture, from daily consistency to being open and honest when asked for his thoughts on the team.
"He's been about what we want to be about, every step of the way," Taylor said. "When this staff came in here in 2019 he's one of those guys that through thick and thin is always, 'Whatever you need from me coach.'"
The team that was the worst in the NFL during Taylor's first year with Boyd has now played for championships in back-to-back seasons. Cincinnati bolstered the offensive line this offseason, adding former Kansas City left 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 over, you know, it's like, 'We one-upped y'all,' but at the end of the day, he's a great player no matter where he would have went."
Boyd and the Bengals will be looking to get back to the AFC title game for another crack at playing for a Super Bowl, a game the Bengals lost at the end of the 2021 campaign.
Boyd enters this season ranked fifth in receptions in franchise history (446) and ninth in total receiving yards (5,333). But numbers and money are not the highest 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 are a winning franchise now and we are going to continue to win. We are getting better."