When you think of tradition in the NFL lately, you think of BenJarvus Green-Ellis's old team in New England. But the big reason he is now playing running back for the Bengals is a Cincinnati tradition that dates back to 1984 and the arrival of Jim Anderson.
"Jim Anderson, the running backs coach there, has a tradition of all those 1,000-yard seasons they put up," Green-Ellis said Thursday night. "You look at guys like Cedric Benson, Corey Dillon, Rudi Johnson, and that was a big attraction."
But Green-Ellis doesn't seem concerned if he'll enjoy the second 1,000-yard season of his career in 2012 as he gets out from the pass-first shadow of Hall of Fame quarterback Tom Brady's offense. Bengals offensive coordinator Jay Gruden is talking about using a rotation, much like the one BJGE anchored for New England's AFC champions with 475 snaps to Danny Woodhead's 378 and rookie Stevan Ridley's 200.
"I don't know how it's going to come down," he said. "I'm just going to come in and be the best player I can be and do whatever I can do to help the team win. If they want me to run on the goal line, I'll do that. If they want me to pick up the blitz, I'll pick up the blitz. If they want me to catch it, I'll catch it."
And Green-Ellis thinks he can catch it even though he caught just nine passes last year.
"There's a difference between not being able to catch and not being thrown to," he said.
BJGE's commitment to the team game is why he was pretty much admired by teammates, media and everyone else in Foxboro. Even the owner. When Bob Kraft held an impromptu State of the Pats at Gillette on Thursday, Kraft addressed The Law Firm right away.
BJGE doesn't just talk about tradition. He respects it. After he scored a touchdown in the AFC championship game back in January, he tapped his chest. But he wasn't beating his chest. He was tapping the patch honoring Kraft's late wife.
"One personal loss for me is BenJarvus. I really had a deep affection for him," Kraft told the media. "He did a great job for us for the four years for us. Especially this past year, he was really supportive of me personally. We became good friends. I'm always going to have a special attachment to him. Except when we play Cincinnati, I'm going to be rooting for him big time."
Tradition is why Green-Ellis also seemed to hit it off with Bengals president Mike Brown in their first meeting earlier this week on his visit to Paul Brown Stadium.
"Sitting down with the owner and listening to his knowledge of the game and history was intriguing to me," he said of his second attraction to the club.
And the other selling points were supplied by Gruden and head coach Marvin Lewis. The Patriots, as the Patriots do in free agency, apparently told BJGE if he could get a better deal, go for it. But New England still talked to him and wanted him back. The Bengals either hit a number or a nerve or both.
"I just thought it was a good fit," BJGE said. "They were talking about how it's a young team that's headed in the right direction and they were enthusiastic about where things are going."
BJGE has a reputation for having a level head on his shoulders and that's what he used as pondered the move. The only time he had played against the Bengals came in New England's Opening Day blowout in 2010, a year before wide receiver A.J. Green and quarterback Andy Dalton arrived.
"Every football year is different; everybody starts 0-0," Green- Ellis said. "It's not just A.J. Green and Andy Dalton. They've got a lot of guys on this team that are good young players. They seem to like to play hard and compete and play the game."