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Green hopes to use Pro Bowl to launch into '13

Posted Jan 31, 2013

A.J. Green made his annual Super Bowl pitch for the Gatorade Institute, but he hopes the next time he's at one of these deals he's at a team hotel and he thinks the Bengals are good enough to get to the big game.


A.J. Green

Updated: 9:30 p.m.

NEW ORLEANS — Pro Bowl wide receiver A.J. Green made his annual Super Bowl pitch for the Gatorade Institute on Thursday at the Media Center, but he hopes the next time he's at one of these deals he's at a team hotel and he thinks the Bengals are good enough to get to the big game.

“It will be fun to play in this game and an honor. It’s a hard place to get to but I feel like we have the players,” Green said.

He spoke with quarterback Andy Dalton on Wednesday and he thinks they'll get together soon with the other receivers, most likely at Dalton's Dallas home, to get some offseason throwing in. Dalton and Green are excited about having pretty much the same crew back for the first time since they arrived in the NFL.

Green is also encouraged by the return of wide receiver Mohamed Sanu, whose promising rookie season was cut short with a month to go when he suffered a foot stress fracture in practice after scoring four touchdowns in the previous three games. Plus, wide receiver Marvin Jones's rookie year was also plagued with injury when he missed four games early with a sprained knee before he returned to start down the stretch.

"I feel like Mo was coming into his own the last couple of games. Just having Marvin come back, and he was battling a knee injury, so he probably wasn't 100 percent," Green said. "But Mo was a key loss. It hurt us a little bit. You put Mo anywhere and he can make plays. But that's the game of football. He'll be ready next year and with Marv coming into his own at the end of the season with (slot receiver Andrew Hawkins) and all us coming back next year, it's going to be exciting."

But the frustration of the Wild Card loss to Houston in which he wasn't targeted in the first half still gnaws at Green four weeks later.

"It’s tough in a big game and you're the go-to guy and you don’t get the ball in the first half; it's all frustrating," Green said. "They had a game plan that had a matchup problem with (tight end) Jermaine (Gresham) and they felt like they could go to him. Things happen like that. All games aren't perfect. That's one thing we need to build on. We just need to capitalize. Not only getting me the ball, but just making some of the big plays."

Green uncharacteristically exited into the offseason and out of the Bengals locker room the day after the loss without talking to the media. On Thursday he admitted the competitor got the best of him.

"I was a little upset not getting the ball in the first half of a big game," he said. "If you win, you move on. Lose you go home and not being involved in the first half was frustrating. I'm the go-to guy and I want to be out there trying to make plays."

But then he flashed the big-play dynamic that was missing in the last month of the season in last Sunday's Pro Bowl with three touchdowns and seven catches for 119 yards in truly Mossian fashion.

The first score, a fourth-down touchdown on a bullet six-yard throw over the middle from Broncos quarterback Peyton Manning to open the game, seemed to mean the most to Green. Finally, Green, after filling his teammates with awe during his first two seasons, had a spell of it himself. He asked Manning to sign the ball.

"That one from Peyton, golly, it was like a dream," Green said. "Just watching Peyton growing up and being on the same field with that guy and to actually catch a TD pass from him. I kept the ball and I got it signed and it's in my house."

The 49-yard touchdown bomb from Colts rookie Andrew Luck was also one to remember, but it also sent a reminder that Green didn't have a catch longer than 21 yards in the last five games and after compiling the third-longest streak in NFL history with touchdowns in nine straight games, he had one in the final six.

"It was different," Green said of the coverage. "A lot of people tried to single me up coming into the red zone using one guy or cheating the safety over slightly. Toward the end of the season they were vising me coming off the line, having the safety play way over the top and the corner taking away the slant. It was definitely different."

Green, who ended up with five catches for 80 yards against Houston that included a 45-yarder, had a decent amount of one-on-one coverage with Texans cornerback Johnathan Joseph in the playoffs. But the Bengals couldn't take advantage.   

"He was one-on-one some of the time, most of the time. But a lot of the time the safety was rolling over the top late," Green said. "Andy didn't have that much time to look. He'd look it off or look to the next side. The pass rush was great that game, so he pretty much didn't have that much time."

But the Pro Bowl has put a bounce in Green's step. He told the Gatorade crowd that he dined on an omlette and fruit pregame because it was the offseason. But he said since it was his best game since he's been in the league, he may make that a regular-season staple.

Manning had a few words for Green, as well as everyone else in his effort to intensify the Pro Bowl and keep it going. He also told Green to keep it going and "it was a pleasure playing with you and just keep continuing to get better."

"He’s a great guy on and off the field; great leader and a funny guy,” Green said of Manning. "He definitely said that if we want it to continue we have to up our playing level. He felt like it should be moved to after the Super Bowl so everyone has a chance to play. It was (more intense than last year). Guys were out there playing hard.”

Green also got a signed jersey from one of his role models, quiet Texans receiver Andre Johnson ("He’s a real humble guy. Down to earth and a hard worker,” Green said) but didn't get a ball signed by Luck.

“I didn’t keep that one. He’s going to be special though,” he said.

But Green has an idea what is going to drive him in his impending workouts in his home of Atlanta with Calvin Johnson and Demaryius Thomas. It won't be the Pro Bowl. It will be the frustration that has hung around this month.

“It’s more disappointing because we had the team and we could have won that game if we put the plays together," Green said of the memory. "Last year no one expected us to make the playoffs. We knew with that game we played one of our worst games. It’s disappointing.”

ANOTHER CONNECTION: Ever since Paul Brown disciple Bill Walsh won the first of his first three Super Bowl titles 31 years ago over Cincinnati's Ken Anderson, the textbook quarterback for the Brown-Walsh West Coast offense, the Bengals and 49ers have been joined at a historical hip.

Walsh's last Super Bowl title came against Brown's franchise with a win over his own protégé, Bengals head coach Sam Wyche. When the 49ers opted to replace quarterback Joe Montana, the 49ers went with another Hall of Famer in Steve Young, whose agent reached a verbal deal with the Bengals hours before leaping at a USFL offer. In the 21st century, the first home game of the Andy Dalton-A.J. Green era was a 13-8 loss to the 49ers for coach Jim Harbaugh's first road victory.

Add this one.

49ers offensive coordinator Greg Roman got his inspiration to coach from several visits with Brown while growing up. Roman, 40, and new age quarterback Colin Kaepernick are under the ultimate microscope in Sunday's Super Bowl against the Ravens.

Roman's uncle, Jack Clary, co-wrote Brown's autobiography PB, a bond that allowed the youngster priceless access.

"Don't ask me if I've read it. Ask me how many times I've read it," Roman said Thursday during the 49ers last meeting with the press before the game. "It's my favorite book and I've got literally over 1,000 football books. And not because my uncle wrote it with him. Because I have so much respect for Paul Brown. The one thing that comes to mind is him asking, 'If it doesn't make sense, then why are we doing it?' I heard Mr. Brown say that all the time."

While Roman attended John Carroll University in Cleveland, he'd take trips to Cincinnati and not only be in Brown's Riverfront Stadium box for some games but also spend time with him at training camp at Wilmington (Ohio) College.

"He was my inspiration for getting into coaching; he's a coaching icon as I see it," Roman said.

Roman will never forget one day in 1984 when Anderson, just three years removed from his MVP season, lit up a practice at Wilmington one day and someone came up to him and said, "Boy, Kenny is having a great day," and Mr.  Brown said, "Oh, he's a fine quarterback, but he's no Otto (Graham).

"I remember how composed he was. It just opened my eyes to the world," Roman said. "You really saw how he made decisions. He just dealt with facts. It wasn't emotional. Just facts."

Roman has worked with all kinds of schemes and his offense is a mix of his experiences. He's got a little West Coast in there and says, "The way the NFL is structured from a football standpoint and coaching it really goes back to Paul Brown. Everybody does something (related)."

This Super Bowl is supposed to be a referendum on San Francisco's use of a college-type offense that features Kaepernick's arms and legs. But Roman begs to differ. He says he has only used The Pistol formation to augment what Kaepernick does (and what he didn't say what Alex Smith can't do) and still has many pro concepts.

But he loves the perception that the 49ers are going Pistol.

"What people don't realize is we're totally different than all that stuff," Roman said. "We like it when people don't quite know or mischaracterize us. It's just an advantage."

Roman insists he didn't rewrite the playbook with the emergence of Kaepernick. The versatility of The Pistol formations allows the Niners to run conventional power plays to set up the pass, as well as other runs.

And that's where Roman starts: with the formation.

"There is no Pistol offense. The Pistol is a formation. What we do is completely different than what everybody else does with that formation," he said. "It's just a different formation we use. We used it at Stanford. We won't use it some, we will use it some. It's kind of week to week."

In fact, Roman thinks Paul Brown would like what he's doing just fine and would recognize it as a wrinkle and not a watershed.  

"He would say, 'Great job for using our players working to their strengths,' " Roman said. "It's just a formation, nothing more than that. It's a different way to run a shotgun formation. Don't believe the hype."

A lot of people thought Roman had enough hype to get one of the eight head coaching jobs this postseason, but he's headed back to The Bay. He learned something else from Brown.

"When the time is right, when it's meant to happen, when the right things happen, it will happen," Roman said. "If you start to detract from trying to do a great job at your job, it shows up and I don't want that to happen."

HUE REPLACEMENT FOR JA? As Bengals head coach Marvin Lewis left Thursday night's Fritz Pollard Alliance Foundation awards ceremony here at the Super Bowl, he indicated the replacement for running backs coach Jim Anderson could be former Raiders head coach and offensive coordinator Hue Jackson.

Asked about his status when he left the ceremony, Jackson said it was safe to assume a call about his fate for next season would be made next week and when asked about Jackson, Lewis said, "Time will tell. We'll see what happens."

Lewis did say The Pollard group, an advocate for the NFL's minority coaches, is talking about honoring Anderson next month at the NFL Scouting Combine in Indianapolis.

"He's been a role model for so many of these guys," Lewis said. "His work ethic and his diligence; how he went about his job."

Anderson, the dean of NFL assistant coaches with 29 straight years with one club, has been deluged by calls since he retired Tuesday.

"The legacy he had … you talk about the calls from people," Lewis said. "It's been overwhelming to me, let alone to him."

At the Eighth Annual Johnnie L. Cochran Jr. Salute to Excellence Awards, Lewis and Vikings head coach Leslie Frazier received NFL Head Coaches awards after their playoff seasons.

 

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