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Green stepping up

Posted Jul 17, 2014

A more vocal A.J. Green says he needs to give his team a spark in the playoffs as the Bengals prep for the start of training camp next Thursday in a 3 p.m. practice.

A.J. Green is looking more from himself in his fourth season.

Updated: 2:45 p.m.

A.J. Green, stand-up guy, isn’t talking about Andy Dalton’s 56.2 passer rating in the postseason. He’s looking at his own line of 161 yards and no touchdowns in three playoff games. A line that the other Bengals starting wide receiver, Marvin Jones, bests with 164 yards in two playoff games.

“If I play well, the team plays well,” Green said Thursday. “I’ve got to give them that spark in the playoffs and I haven’t done that the whole three years.”

It was the final session of Green’s two-day Pro Camps at Cincinnati’s Sycamore High School and his last gasp before training camp’s first practice a week from Thursday at 3 p.m. on the Paul Brown Stadium practice fields.

Green was all over the place as he led the sold-out event of nearly 400 campers from jumping jacks to the A.J. Green Smokehouse that crowned the fastest kid in camp.

(Green bulled his way into the Bulldogs Division, gave the two campers a five-yard head start and carved out about a 5-to-10-yard win in the 40-yard dash. And, no, he didn’t appear to pull anything.)

But the best thing he taught the kids probably came when they weren’t listening. Unless they eavesdropped on his brief stint with the media. Despite going to the Pro Bowl ever year of his career and having the second best three-year start of any wide receiver that ever lived, Green is looking for a lot more from himself in his fourth season.

New offensive coordinator Hue Jackson is helping with his challenging texts and asides. Green expected his text last week when the NFL Network’s survey of players rated Green the second best receiver behind Detroit’s Calvin Johnson.

“He said, ‘Now, let’s go be one,’” Green recalled.  “He’s never satisfied where I am and that’s one thing about him. No matter what I do or how much I’ve accomplished these first three years, there’s always more I can do.

“I feel like I haven’t reached my peak yet,” Green said.  “That’s a good thing for me because I’m going to continue to keep working. “I knew (Jackson’s) text was coming. He’s pushing me to be better. I want that. When you get to the point when you feel like you have done everything, it’s time for you to hang it up.”

Green is thinking about 6:09 left in the 27-10 loss to San Diego last January and the Bengals trailing, 20-10. Dalton had a first-and-10 from the Bengals 44 and flung a ball to Green inside the 5 that he couldn’t get a handle on.

And the January before that, when he says he wished he’d kept his head down a little longer on that third-and-11 from the Texans 36 with 2:57. He was open in the end zone but it was a tad overthrown and Green was a tad late.

“A lot of regrets, but you can’t live in the past,” Green said.

But you can step up and step out and be a leader. Partly fueled by the urging of Jackson and wide receivers coach James Urban and partly sparked by his exhaustive competitiveness, the quiet man is now talking.

Here’s a guy that is held in awe in his locker room, a guy that is as nice and as accessible as your big brother and yet he’s the same guy that needs 1,563 yards to pass Randy Moss and post the best first four years by any NFL receiver.

Oh yeah. They’ll listen.

“That’s the big thing for me. Stepping outside my box. I’m not really a vocal guy in general. I let my play, my work speak for itself. I think I have to talk a little bit more,” Green said. “When we’re not having a good day…or we’re down, little things like that…just give them that vocal encouragement. It’s definitely an adjustment for me. I’m a quieter, reserved guy. I lead by example about what I do on and off the field. That’s the biggest thing for me.”

Green doesn’t get a lot of points for leadership because he is so quiet. But he’s always the first in every receiver line and he hasn’t shied away in taking on the biggest issue of the offseason as he reiterated his support of Dalton while predicting the club is going to reach a contract extension with Dalton before the season starts.

“We came in together. That’s my guy. He helped me where I am.  I helped him and we took the Bengals to a different level,” Green said.  “The Bengals were losing a lot before we came. I feel like we turned it around.

“I know they know he’s the guy…I feel like they’re going to get something done before the season starts.”

Green realizes that not only Dalton, but he and everyone else have to play better in the postseason.

“A lot of people give him crap about not winning a playoff game, but we’ve made the playoffs the last three seasons,” Green said. “We’ve won 10 or more games (twice). Playoff games…we’re still young. I feel like we’re going to win them, it just takes time.”

He’s also saying all the right things when it comes to his own contract, up after 2015.

Green went in the first round of the 2011 draft and Dalton followed him in the second round. Because he was one of the top ten players picked at No. 4, the Bengals had the choice to exercise a $10.5 million option on Green for the fifth year in 2015 and they’ve already done that. He’s not surprised that with Dalton headed to free agency and him with an option that that there has yet to be a long-term with not only him, but the rest of the 2011 first-rounders.

“I think I’m on the backburner just because of the option. That’s fine with me,” Green said. “I don’t even look at it like that. I just go out there and play and my time will come.

“It’s not surprising. Teams always want to wait,” he said. “I’m fine with my option and my $10 million. I’ll take it.”

 

 

 

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