“We’re excited to be able to pick
What are some of the things that stood out, both as a player and personally?
ML: “His sincerity and his growth in continuing to get better. His radius in catching the football and running after the catch. He really has a good understanding of the game. He has been well-schooled in that sense.”
You’ll be running a different offense this year. How do you see him fitting into that?
ML: “You have to have things that push people. He’s a guy who will push the defense and make them defend him over the top.”
Most rookie receivers will play in one spot. Is he a guy who could play multiple spots?
ML: “He’ll do a fine job.”
Is he someone who will play multiple spots?
ML: “We’re not going to get into that. We’re excited to have him.”
Did you feel that there wasn’t a quarterback worthy of the No. 4 pick? Did that enter into your thinking at all?
ML: “We had to make sure that the player fits where we are with the pick. In this case, we felt really good about this (the selection of Green).”
Is this about building the team for now?
ML: “I think this builds us both for the future and right away. These days you play two, three and four wide receivers, so multiple guys will be involved. This will give us another real threat to go with the other guys.”
Did anyone call to talk about trades?
ML: “When you’re picking that high, there are things that come into play.”
Might this be an enticement for
ML: “This has no bearing on anyone here or not here.”
Will guys be able to come here tomorrow to work out, given the current state of the NFL labor dispute?
ML: “Yes, but we don’t have a set workout program for them tomorrow. There’s no need to rush into anything. Our guys are welcome to come in. We have guys who we will look at, rehab-wise. We’ll follow what we’ve been asked to do by the league and move forward. It’s good for us to lay our hands on the guys that we can.”
You aren’t allowed to negotiate with the rookies, but when Green comes in, can you give him a playbook and start to bring him up to speed?
ML: “We’ll take the directions as they continue to come in from the league. There’s no need to sit here and speculate.”
With all that’s going on with the lockout and the Carson Palmer issue, how much have you been hamstrung?
ML: “The whole league has been under the same regulations. I don’t think we’ve been hamstrung. We have a little opening today football-wise, so we look forward to that. As next week rolls around, we’ll get some more clarification and go forward. The coaches are excited and ready to go. At some point, everything will come to a finality and we’ll get back to football.”
OFFENSIVE COORDINATOR JAY GRUDEN AND WIDE RECEIVERS COACH JAMES URBAN
You guys have seen a lot of wide receivers over your years in football. What type of guy does he remind you of?
Urban: “A.J. is unique. He’s a unique player when you take into account the size, the speed, the ball skills, his natural ability running routes, the complete player that he is. He’s a blocker, he plays hard. I think he’s rare. That’s why you take a guy like that with the fourth pick. Everything we’ve seen shows that he’s one of those once-every-couple-years kind of guys, and that’s the way we feel.”
What was the pro day like in Athens when you got the chance to sit down with him before the workout and finally got to meet him?
Gruden: “The pro day was unique there. We didn’t get the chance to watch him work out, we could only see him in the weight room before that. We had to leave for his actual workout, but we got to watch it on tape, along with all the games that we watched on tape. I’m a little bit more excited than anybody else here, I guess. I mean, I feel like I just got up on Christmas and opened up my favorite present. I’m so fired up. Not only is he a great player, but you meet with him and he’s a great person. He’s got a great attitude, he wants to work. He can do everything a receiver needs to do to be great — already. The sky is the limit for him. With his desire to work and his ability to make plays, he’s going to make a lot of them. I’m fired up. We’re excited to start drawing up plays for him right now. We’ll probably go on the chalkboard as soon as the draft is over and draw up about 20 more. He’s a hell of a player, man. I’m all smiles right now. I’m very, very excited.”
You’ve got this new toy now, but is there some anxiety about who is going to throw to him?
Gruden: “Ah, we’ll find somebody (laughs). Surely somebody ought to come throw to this son-of-a-gun. I might come out of retirement for this guy (laughs). I am fired up. To me, the beauty of throwing to him is that he might be covered and you can put ball up and he will get it. He’s got unbelievable ability. That’s something we’re going to have to tell our quarterback. Even though it looks like he’s covered, just give him a chance. He makes circus catches look easy. Somebody will be here, and somebody will be delighted to have him and (Jerome) Simpson and all of our other receivers that are here with (Jordan) Shipley and (Jermaine) Gresham. Things are looking bright.”
He obviously has a tremendous skill set, but is making the contested catch his greatest ability?
Gruden: “No question. The best feature about him is that he doesn’t have a best feature. They’re all great features. There’s nothing that he can’t do. He can do everything — he can run vertical, he can run underneath, he can break tackles, he can make the acrobatic catch, he can catch crossing routes and he’s not afraid, and he’ll block. I’m sure our running backs are going to be happy because he’ll be blocking downfield for us, and he’ll do a great job at that.
There are a lot of things wide receivers must adjust to when coming into the NFL — getting jammed at the line of scrimmage, reading coverages, see the same things that quarterbacks see. You coached DeSean Jackson in Philadelphia, who adjusted quickly early in his career. What traits do you see in A.J. that make you believe he can make a similar transition?
Urban: “A.J. saw some bump and run. And he saw some very good corners, too — one of them (Patrick Peterson from LSU, picked fifth by Arizona) has gone already. We saw him against some great talent. He handles the bump-and-run very well. He has size and very long arms, and he uses those to his advantage. When we spent a bunch of time with him down there, and then when we brought him up here for a visit and talked Xs and Os and football, he’s very sharp. He knows coverage recognition, he understands quarterback progressions, he understands how his route fits into the pattern. We were very impressed with him.”
Is he a guy who you think could eventually, if not right away, play multiple receiver spots?
Gruden: “(Laughs) In this league you can’t just line up at one spot because teams can roll to you. So for him to really reach his max potential, you’re going to have to move him around. Early on, we’ll see how much he can handle mentally. And whatever he can handle, we’ll throw at him. We’ll start slow with him and get him acclimated to the offense to see what he can do. Obviously the ability to move him around is going to be to his and our benefit.”
Are you confident that one of the quarterbacks that you guys like will slip a few spots and be there for your second-round pick?
Gruden: “We like a lot of players. And when you’re picking at four, you have a lot of needs, and we have some other needs that we have to look at. But definitely, quarterback is one of the major needs, and hopefully we’ll get somebody in the second round. But if not, weirder things have happened. We’ll see what happens. Right now, we have Jordan (Palmer)right now as the backup quarterback — or starting quarterback, whatever. But we definitely need some more weapons at the quarterback position, and hopefully somebody will fall that we really, really like.”
Everyone has their mock drafts unfolding different ways, so what is your feeling about whether or not you may have to move up to get the quarterback that you want?
Gruden: “I don’t know. I just read the mock drafts that everybody else reads, and every day they are different. You know, everybody was picking San Francisco to take a quarterback and they didn’t. So who knows what’s going to happen. We’re just going to wait and see. If we feel like we have to make a move up into the first round and Mr. Brown is receptive to that, then he’ll do it. But it’s his call. We can only give him the information of the guys that we like, and we’ll go from there.”
James, you got to see a pretty good receiver in Philadelphia in DeSean Jackson. What are the comparisons with him? Anything that they do similarly?
Urban: “Well, you’re talking about a six-foot-three-and-a-half guy versus a five-foot-ten guy. They’re very different players, but the important thing is that they’re both football players. DeSean will block and he makes dynamic plays, and A.J. does all of those things. Like Coach (Gruden) said, the sky is the limit for A.J.”
Is he the most physically rare receiver you have seen since Calvin Johnson?
Urban: “Yes. That I have seen.”
The Falcons gave up five draft picks to move up and take Julio Jones. What, in your eyes, made Green the clear choice over Jones?
Gruden: “We were high on Jones, also. If A.J. was gone, I wouldn’t have been surprised if we took Julio. I like Julio. He’s a big, strong receiver. I think the thing that sets A.J. apart up from Julio is just his natural ability to adjust to the ball and catch everything. Julio had some uncharacteristic drops; A.J. — never. He’s got great hands, and I think that sets him apart from Julio. Obviously Julio ran a faster time than him, he’s a big guy and he’ll do some great things in the NFL, also. We like them both.”
Jay, the most important question is, did your brother agree with the pick?
Gruden: “(Laughs) I don’t know, man. I haven’t talked to him.”
How important is IQ and the Wonderlic score to you guys? Green had some much-publicized Wonderlic test results. How is his football IQ?
Gruden: “The Wonderlic score (pause)… yeah. I don’t know. All I know is that he plays smart and he makes big plays all the time. He’s consistently done that since he was a freshman in high school, and there’s no Wonderlic test that can take that away. In talking to him and meeting with him, I know that if he is a little slower, which I don’t think he is, we’ll take time with him and make it comfortable for him. That’s our job, and mainly his job, to make sure that he learns. And he will learn. He’s a great player, and he’s a willing player. He’ll be here on time every day, and he’ll practice hard every day. Wonderlic-shmunderlic. He’s going to be fine.”
How much of a wide receiver’s success is tied to who is throwing him the ball?
Gruden: “Well, he had a freshman throwing him the ball this year (at Georgia), and he still put up great numbers despite missing the first four games. Obviously you want a great player throwing to him because it makes the receivers look better. But on the flip side of that, I’ve seen great receivers make average quarterback look good. Hopefully we can get a great quarterback and have great receivers. That’s our intent, and that’s what we’re going to try to move forward to do.”
Who? What great receiver made an average quarterback look good?
Gruden: “I don’t want to call somebody average. But we’ve all seen it before. We’ve seen some teams put up huge offensive numbers with great receivers, then when one of those receivers leaves, the quarterback doesn’t do quite as well. It happens.”
Did his visit here last Wednesday seal the deal to pick him?
Gruden: “In our room — the offensive room only — we had him rated the No. 1 player by a landslide.”
The best offense player in the draft?
“Yes. There’s no question. We were tickled pink that he was still there. We were nervous, but we’re happy we got him.”
Is this extra incentive, on top of the $11.6 million, for Carson Palmer to come back?
Gruden: “Who knows. Who knows what’s going on over there in Cali. We’ll see. Hopefully he has a desire to come back, and the head coach and owner welcome him back, and he’ll come back. And if not, we’ll move forward and find someone who will play.”
Are there many quarterbacks in this draft who fit what you want to do offensively?
Gruden: “There’s no question. In a way, we haven’t really installed an offense yet. We have an offense in mind that we’re going to install, but we’re going to try to cater to the guy we have, whoever that quarterback is. And right now that’s
How does this impact
Gruden: “I don’t know Chad’s (situation). There’s been a lot said on Twitter and all of that stuff. So that’s up to Mr. Brown and Coach Lewis, so you can ask those guys later on. When the guys come into the room for the first meeting and I know they’re on my team, those are the guys I’m going to work with. So I’m not going to cry over the guys who aren’t here, I’m going to work my tail off with the guys that are here and try to make us a better football team.”
How excited are you that you can hand out playbooks tomorrow?
Gruden: “I’m excited. Today was a little bit of a pulling-your-hair-out type of thing, trying to get them all ready. You’re sitting on your hands and studying all these players from the draft, then the next thing you know, the players are coming in tomorrow. Today was a scramble drill for us. But tomorrow, we’ll have something (that gives) them the meat and potatoes of the offense so they can start learning the terminology, because it’s quite different than what they’re used to.”
These fans have seen Jordan Palmer, but not Dan LeFevour. Is he the type of guy who will fit well into what you want to do offensively?
Gruden: “I haven’t seen him unfortunately, other than watching a little bit of his college tape. I haven’t seen him take any NFL snaps. When he gets here — luckily we do have some time now with the OTAs coming up — we’ll get him some reps and see what we think and see where we stand at that position. But we’re excited about all of the guys. With the weapons that we have — these guys will make a lot of quarterbacks look good, hopefully.”
A.J. GREEN (conference call with Cincinnati media)
What do you think about being a Cincinnati Bengal?
AG: “I’m ready. This is the best fit for me. I’m just ready to get to work.”
Why do you say it’s the best fit for you?
AG: “After sitting down with Jay (Gruden) and watching film on offense, I feel like it’s similar to what we did at Georgia and I can step in right away and help.”
How much do you know about Jordan Palmer and Dan LeFevour?
AG: “I don’t know anything about them.”
You’re aware of what’s going on with Carson Palmer, right?
AG: “Yeah, I heard he wants out, but I’m just going by what I hear.”
How do you feel like you’ll fit in this offense?
AG: “I feel that I’ll fit well. We ran some similar things at Georgia, and I will adapt to it.”
Is there any trepidation going into a situation where the quarterback wants out and the top receiver may not be back?
AG: “There’s a little uncertainty, but that’s something I can’t control. All I can do is come there and do my best, and we’ll see what happens.”
Did you follow Chad Ochocinco as a kid?
AG: “Yes. Chad is a great receiver. It will be good to learn some things from him. It will be great.”
Have you ever talked to him?
How much did you follow Randy Moss?
AG: “I followed him a lot growing up. People called me ‘Little Randy Moss’ in high school and I loved it. I watched Randy a lot.”
Do you think your game is similar to his?
AG: “Yes, a little. I think I go through the middle and run short routes a little more often. I’m definitely not as fast as him.”
For people who haven’t seen you, explain how you play wide receiver ...
AG: “I block, catch, go across the middle, stretch the field — I just try to be a complete receiver.”
Did you get a sense of Jay Gruden’s enthusiasm for you when you two met?
AG: “I love him. Spending the whole day with him — he really lightens the mood. It was just like hanging back at Georgia talking to one of the coaches.”
He said he’s going to draw up 20 new plays for you ...
AG: “That would be nice. He just has to make sure I get them so I can learn them.”
It seems like OTAs and minicamps will be back. Do you feel like that will be an advantage for you?
AG: “Definitely. Being a rookie and coming in without a minicamp or a playbook — it’s crazy.”
What was it like playing with a freshmen quarterback this past season?
AG: “It was frustrating at times. All I could do was my job. He’s going to be a great quarterback.”
Do you feel like that’s an advantage coming into the pros, being that quarterbacks can switch at the drop of a hat?
AG: “Definitely. I played with three different quarterbacks during my three years at Georgia. I feel like I can adapt to anything.”
You’re coming to a place where Chad Ochocinco has a very outward personality. What’s your personality like?
AG: “I’m more of a low-key, behind-the-scenes kind of guy. I just try to do my job.”
Are you on Twitter?
Do you tweet as much as Chad Ochocinco?
AG: “No, definitely not. I only tweet about once per week.”
Many draft prospects tweeted the places they visited. You didn’t do that:
AG: “No. That’s just not me.”
What’s the biggest transition from being a Georgia Bulldog to the NFL?
AG: “Just the film study and the way I prepare for games — making sure I know every play and not second guessing myself.”
As a guy who was about to be drafted, what was it like following the news in the NFL regarding the CBA and court cases?
AG: “I really didn’t think about it because it’s out of my control.”
I know you’re from the same hometown as Stanford Jennings. How well do you know him?
AG: “I know him. His niece and I went to high school together, and I know his daughter Kelsey as well.”
How similar are the Georgia routes to the West Coast offense?
AG: “A lot of similarities. Shallow crosses, outs, deep outs — I feel like I can make it translate to the next level.”
What did it feel like when your name was called in the NFL Draft?
AG: “It was a great feeling. It’s everything that I’ve worked so hard for. Walking across the stage was unbelievable.”
Bengals wide receivers coach James Urban said you’re an old-fashioned country kid:
AG: “Definitely. That’s who I am. I’m blessed to be here and ready to play football.”