During Thursday's remarkable session in a media Zoom, one of the greatest players in Bengals history called himself out for "loafing," in last Sunday's loss in Baltimore and admitted that frustration has taken over his Pro Bowl game.
Realizing his sullen sideline demeanor had midwifed a social media soap opera, wide receiver A.J. Green said he's not looking to be moved before the NFL trading deadline and called his relationship with head coach Zac Taylor good after "a great conversation."
"I'm a leader on this team. I feel like I let my teammates down. That's the biggest thing. I felt disappointed in myself because that's not who I am as a person and as a player," Green said.
Green questioned his own effort on a second-quarter interception after quarterback Joe Burrow overthrew him. He soon left the game when he tweaked the sore hamstring that knocked him out of most of training camp, but he says he's working through it so he can play Sunday (1 p.m.-Cincinnati's Channel 19) in Indianapolis.
He also denied telling director of player relations Eric Ball while he was sitting out the second half that he was talking about getting traded when lip readers set Twitter afire off a CBS bench shot.
"To go out there and loaf on the interception and freaking on the sideline talking, even though I wasn't talking about that situation, I just can't put that out there," Green said. "Just for my teammates, being one of the captains. I just have to do a better job handling my frustration."
Green, who has just one catch in the last two games for the first time in his ten-year career, has spent the days after the game talking to his parents as well as players around the league he considers mentors as he grapples with stunning numbers for a seven-time Pro Bowler.
After missing the last season-and-a-half with toe and ankle injuries, he came into this season in the top five in many categories for active wide receivers. The man who entered the season averaging 80.5 yards per game and 14.8 yards per his 602 catches, has started the season with the lowest five-game output of his career (14 catches for 119 yards with no touchdowns) and doesn't have a catch longer than 15 yards.
Now he says after those conversations, "He's in a good space."
"I get in my head and I think the frustration just took over where I'm just not playing my game. I used to go out there and play relaxed and play free and just let the game come to me," Green said. "But it's hard. Like I said, we have a great team and the football that we put out there, it's just not us. And then for me just going out there and losing and not being able to contribute, it was tough.
"I'm just happy to be back out there. So I know it's going to come over time. I know it's not going to be easy for me."
Everybody has a theory on Green's struggles. Hs age of 32. Adjusting to a new offense for the first time in his pro career. Playing with a different starting quarterback for the first time in his pro career. Trying to get acclimated to Taylor's wide receiver rotations and pre-snap shifts. An inability to get settled without spring ball or pre-season games.
"It's difficult for me because I'm coming off injury, where just mentally, getting back into the game and then not having preseason, not having OTAs has been tough," Green said. "But when you play this game long enough, everything is not going to be smooth sailing. I'm always talking to people and they're always telling me bad times never last so long. Good people last longer. So I've got to continue to keep working and keep getting better each week and I can live with that."
Green says he doesn't want to get into a situation where Burrow and Taylor feel like they have to force him the ball. He's spent time with both trying to hash it out. His frustration has been magnified by a career-long annoyance. Coverages tilted to his side.
"(Green) and Joe always have conversations, what I like and what I need to do," Green said. "He has so much on his plate, I just don't want to add to that, just not try to force him to look my way all the time when it's not the case.
"For me, I don't want to put that pressure on (Taylor) to be like, 'Oh, we have to get A.J. the ball.' I don't want them to force me anything. For me, I think it's just getting more comfortable in the offense. They're moving me around more and putting me in spots to where I can get the looks that we need. Just going back, watching the game, there's a lot of those looks where Zac put me in position to get the ball. The coverages just went to my side."
As for a trade, Green says he's not looking for one when, "I think we're building something special here and I just want to be a part of the team and help us win."
HUBBARD BACK FOR STEELERS?: The Bengals put right end Sam Hubbard (elbow) on injured reserve Thursday. He has to be on there for at least three weeks and that's how many games they have until the Nov. 8 bye, which gives him a shot to be ready for the Nov. 15 game in Pittsburgh.
Tough loss. Just ask fellow end Carl Lawson.
"Very versatile. Can do anything on the field. A leader on this team," Lawson said of Hubbard. "That's kind of what you lose. You guys have seen him play. I haven't seen a player with that much range as a defensive lineman as far as getting to the ball. That's a unique thing he has. That's something I really like in his game, that's a big piece of the defense."
It means more snaps for fifth-rounder Khalid Kareem. Kareem, out of Notre Dame, has impressed them every time he's been out there and that includes Lawson.
"He's constantly in the meeting room asking questions, as am I. I always want to ask questions. He reminds me of myself in that aspect," Lawson said. "He's just trying to get better and go out there and fill in a huge piece for this defense like Sam Hubbard. So, I think he's ready and I think he'll be prepared to play.
"He's very good at converting speed to power. He's a long guy and has real good length. He's really fluid. Overall for his talent, I do believe he could've been drafted higher."