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A.J. Green Vows To Return In 2019 Despite Setback

A.J. Green still wants to play in 2019.
A.J. Green still wants to play in 2019.

A glum A.J. Green didn't practice Thursday and he indicated that his swollen ankle is going to take him out of Sunday's game (1 p.m.-Cincinnati's Local 12) against the Ravens at Paul Brown Stadium. Now he's not sure when he'll make his first appearance or even when he'll practice again, but he still thinks he'll play in 2019.

"I'm a competitor. I want to play, but sometimes you go through these bumps in the road, that you've got to stay focused," Green said Thursday before the Bengals ventured into a frosty rain on the Paul Brown Stadium turf. "You've got to look at the long-term picture. I've got to make sure I can play for another five years without having to worry about this thing, not just thinking of the now."

But now he says that five-year clock starts in 2020 and not this season, doomed from the start when he tore ligaments in his ankle during the first 45 minutes of training camp. On Monday, Green had the most arduous practice since the injury and was on track to play against the Ravens. But during Wednesday morning's walk-through the ankle swelled up and was sore and he couldn't go in the ensuing practice. Dating back to last season's big toe injury, he's missed the last 13 games and 16 of the last 17.

Green cited the toe injury as a reason he's not pushing it. Last season he came back after missing three games, but he was able to only go one quarter when he returned before being lost for the season.

"Maybe take a day off and then go from there. It's just a process," Green said. "For me, I can't go out there when I'm not 100 percent. It makes no sense for me to put myself in that situation to where I can have another time hurting (it), just like I did my toe. It's all about make sure I'm taking care of myself first. Everything else comes after that."

After feeling good on Monday, Green thought he had a good chance to play if he made it through his first full practice on Wednesday. But as head coach Zac Taylor told the media he expected Green to play Sunday, he didn't know that Green had gone back in the training room with his concerns.

"With the ankle, you know it's going to happen. Especially (when) I'm trying to get back and play," Green said. "We're trying to accelerate the process a little bit. It's always just pushing that threshold and see how high, what can I take. Right now, my ankle is saying it's too much. That's when you have to back off.

"I have to push it just to see what it can take and what it can't take. That's the only thing with the ankle. As I keep building, the threshold will keep getting higher. Right now we just hit the threshold again."

Green reiterated he's not looking at the team' record or his contract. He wants to get back because he believes he can do it at a high level. And he believes it will be this season.

"I don't look that far ahead. I just take it day-by-day," Green said. "If that comes to a point where I can't play, that's what's supposed to happen. Then my ankle's not where I need to be for me to play. Right now, I'm still thinking I still can play. I still can give this thing a little bit more time and then we go from there."