Dalton, who underwent season-ending surgery earlier this week on his right thumb, told the Athletic that the injury will not prevent him from being ready to throw for the start of organized team activities in April.
The veteran quarterback reportedly had the procedure to repair torn ligaments in the thumb. Dalton, who also broke the thumb during the postseason in 2015, said he wants to make sure the injury is fully healed.
“There’s no reason to rush anything,” Dalton said. “It’s kind of the same thing when it happened last time, it was like ‘OK, you could be playing in the next round of the playoffs or don’t touch a football for a couple months.'”
Dalton was hurt in a 35-20 loss to the Cleveland Browns on Nov. 25. It was the third consecutive loss for the Bengals (5-6), dampening their chances of reaching the postseason.
Dalton told the Athletic he was trying to remain optimistic about the severity of the injury but knew immediately there was something wrong.
“I was hoping for the best,” he said. “But then once we got MRIs and everything came out, surgery was the option. It was the thing to do. “
Jeff Driskel, who replaced Dalton against the Browns, will make his first NFL start in Sunday’s game against the Denver Broncos. Driskel was 17 of 29 for 155 yards, one touchdown and no interceptions against the Browns in the most extensive playing time of his career.
Dalton completed 65.7 percent of his throws this season for Cincinnati, which opened the season by winning four of its first five games.
The 31-year-old Dalton struggled over the past three games due to the absence Pro Bowl wideout A.J. Green, who was sidelined due to a toe injury. He wound up the season completing 226 of 365 passes for 2,566 yards with 21 touchdowns and 11 interceptions.
Despite the late-season tailspin that has dimmed Cincinnati’s postseason hopes, Dalton said he feels like he has the backing of team management.
“Everybody here’s been behind me. I’ve never doubted that at all,” said Dalton. “I think from the top down, the support that I’ve received is what you want. I never had a doubt.”