In only his second NFL weekend off since he retired, Bengals great A.J. Green visited his ex-teammates and former boss during Saturday's walk-through at Paycor Stadium.
In the lead-up to Sunday's Ruler of the Jungle assignment against the Ravens in one of those AFC North scrums he used to take over, Green spent some quiet time with Bengals president Mike Brown. Brown presented him with a signed shadow box print of him playing during his ten seasons in stripes that also included a pair of gloves he wore here along with the inscription, "Bengal Forever."
While he tossed a junior-sized football with six-year-old son Eazy, Green held court in the end zone with the training staff and greeted such former mates as running back Joe Mixon as Mixon lofted a few Eazy's way. He tried to get a rise out of four-year-old Gunnar, but he was sitting next to mom Miranda engrossed in a phone.
"Joe used to come over the house," Green said. "It's great to be back here with the kids. They were babies when we were here. Mike's been great. I feel honored. It's very humbling how people treat you. I always tried to treat people the same way and tried to be great on and off the field."
The Bengals also gave the family four No. 18 Green jerseys along with a pair of his custom-painted cleats. Then photos were snapped. The Greens with the Browns.
"Our family with Mike's family. A full-circle moment," Green said.
Talk about full circle. Bengals quarterback Joe Burrow put his arm around Green and asked, "So what have you been doing?"
"Golf," Green told him and they made a vow for a future tee time as Burrow ran to a meeting.
Green's last year here was Burrow's first in 2020, when they appeared to win Burrow's debut on a touchdown pass with seven seconds left that was negated by Green's offensive interference penalty.
More full circle. Former NFL quarterback Matt Ryan, calling the game for CBS, did lose a game on a Green touchdown catch with seven seconds left. From Andy Dalton. In Atlanta. In 2018. That was long after Georgia's Green and Julio Jones were the two top receivers coming into the draft.
"That still drives me crazy," Ryan said. "Got in there in Cover Two I think."
Ryan, the 2106 MVP, knew all about Green playing in college while he was the quarterback for the Falcons. When the Bengals took Green at No. 4, the Falcons called Ryan and told him they were trading from way back in the first round to come up and grab Jones at No. 7 and what he did think of Jones?
Ryan has to laugh even now.
"I think I can make that work," he said. "I think they probably had both guys on the board. Those two guys were always connected. I watched A.J. at Georgia and he was just incredibly talented. I later played with (former Bengals wide receiver) Mohamed Sanu and he would tell stories how he worked, how great of a route runner he was, and what a great teammate he was. I've always had so much respect for him."
MATTY ICE ON SEAMLESS JOE: Count Ryan as one of those peers that loves watching Burrow play.
"Unbelievable competitor. A great mindset. Nothing seems to faze him," Ryan said. "Mechanically, he's one of those guys you want to teach off."
Ryan, also in his first year of retirement after 15 seasons, captured pretty well what makes Burrow so charismatic as a player.
"How tough he is. He's aggressive throwing it down-field with touch in throwing it over the top and back shoulder," Ryan said. "I also think he moves better than maybe he gets credit for. He's got that pocket awareness and ability to throw from contorted positions with his lower body.
"He definitely plays with some swag … Must see TV whenever he's on."
INACITVES: For the second straight week, pass rusher Joseph Ossai (ankle) couldn't get on the field even though he did practice last week, mostly in limited fashion. With running back Chris Evans (hamstring) out, fifth-rounder Chase Brown makes his debut on special teams. Like last week, cornerback DJ Ivey and offensive linemen Jackson Carman and Trey Hill were healthy scratches.
CAPTAINS: Head coach Zac Taylor sent out for his captains nose tackle DJ Reader and, of course, left tackle Orlando Brown Jr., son of Mr. Raven Zeus Brown, Baltimore native, and a 2018 third-round pick of the Ravens.