A.J. Green returned to a full practice on Thursday. Updated: 6 p.m.
PLAYER OF THE DAY: Two-time Pro Bowl wide receiver A.J. Green hadn't caught a ball against the defense in three weeks, but in the last public workout of training camp at Paul Brown Stadium on Thursday morning his hands and the 60ish-degree temperatures ushered in the fall season.
Green, who bruised his knee on the first day of training camp, caught everything but flak. He caught deep ones, comebacks, hauled in two red-zone touchdowns on his patented fade route, and generally behaved like he never had a day off.
"When you're playing this game," Green said after practice, "you can't have fear and I have no fear. I just go out here and play and whatever is going to happen is going to happen, so I'm just going to play my regular game."
His favorite catch? The play of the day, an arching bomb from quarterback Andy Dalton on a double move against cornerback Adam Jones, not unlike the play that felled him when he came down awkwardly on the first day of camp. On his knee. Jones had a good angle as he tried not to give up the inside. Thrown directly over his head, Green tracked the ball and twisted to catch it in one motion on the inside.
"It speaks for itself; words can't explain it," Jones said. "It's not like he was broke. or completely hurt. No different than coming back from a hamstring. But A.J. is A.J. The real deal.
"I looked up and was like, 'How in hell did he catch this ball? It was a good ball because if he threw it inside then I probably could have made the play on it. That was a good catch. It was one of those plays where you've got to forget about it and go get the next one."
Green came through on Wednesday's declaration that he's back to 100 percent. He said he probably won't play in Saturday's 7 p.m. preseason home opener (11:35 p.m.-Channel 12) against the Titans at PBS, "but we'll see."
"He picked up where he left off," Dalton said. "He said he's 100 percent, he looked 100 percent out there ... it's good to see him make big catches like that. That's what he does."
It didn't matter what drill Green lined up in or which cornerback he went against. He beat three first-round picks in Jones, Kirkpatrick and Leon Hall, and also caught a fade over free-agent rookie Onterio McCalebb, a converted running back.
"We were just practicing the over-the-head in individuals, so it was a good time for that one," Green said. "It was good to get back out there. Seeing all my brothers out there working. It doesn't seem like you're part of the team when you're not practicing. They're sweating and grinding and you're in the training room."
But don't look for Green much in the three remaining preseason games. It sounds like Saturday is out and the starters barely play in the finale, set this year for PBS on Aug. 29 against the Colts. So the Aug. 24 game in Dallas looks like the one, although Green is hoping the injury won't cut down on his snaps.
"I'm the type of guy that needs my reps. I don't feel the same if I don't get my proper reps," Green said. "Whatever the coaches decide, I'll take it. But when I'm out there I'm going to make the most of it."
Dalton is right. Green picked right up where he left off and looked like he did in this year's Pro Bowl, where he was the best player on the field. When he swiped the ball from Kirkpatrick in the end zone, there was the accompanying ballet move to stay inbounds. Defensive coordinator Mike Zimmer said Green didn't get in, but linebacker Vontaze Burfict said it was good.
"(Zimmer) wasn't there. Vontaze said I was in. I know I was in because I dug it up," Green said.
Green clearly became bored during the 21-day hiatus and got pretty good abuse from his buddies. He said it's the longest he's ever been out because of injury at any level. His biggest challenge in the program with rehab trainer Nick Cosgray was keeping in shape.
"They didn't want to throw me out the first day. They just let me work my way back," Green said of Wednesday's limited work in individuals. "The biggest thing was I was working with Nick keeping my cardio up, so my cardio wasn't really a factor. In the pool (on the underwater treadmill). That was tiring."
PLAY OF THE DAY: Take your pick of two Green plays in 11-on-11. The moon ball against Jones or the diving catch on a comeback route where he contorted his body to haul it in in-bounds as he was headed out-of-bounds.
Hall was with him step-for-step and Dalton put the pass in the only place where Hall couldn't damage it. Low and away. Green dove and hauled it in with Hall right in his grill about to swoop in for at least a pass defensed. But somehow Green caught it and no doubt earned the wrath of head coach Marvin Lewis in his continuing effort to keep players on their feet during practice.
A diving catch resulted in slot receiver Andrew Hawkins's severely sprained ankle on Aug. 1 and it was not good when Green went down in that first practice.
"They tried (telling me not to dive), but I practice just like it's going to be in the game," Green said. "What I do in practice translates to the game. What I don't do in practice, it's hard to do in the game. I don't care what it is. If I've got to dive, I'm just going to dive. If injuries still occur, it's going to happen anyway. It's the game of football."
QUOTE OF THE DAY: CB Adam Jones on Green:
"He's the best I've ever in person. Period. He comes to compete every day."
TRUMPETING EIFERT: One of the first great receiving tight ends in pro football history surfaced at PBS on Thursday and former Bengal Bob Trumpy could only marvel at how the position has evolved since he showed up in the club's first draft. A 12th-round pick out of Utah, Trumpy figures he was 6-6, 210 pounds and now he's looking at 6-6, 255-pound Tyler Eifert, this year's first-round pick.
So Trumpy's not going to make any comparisons. But one thing they seem to have in common is height, great hands, and the ability to stretch the field. And Trumpy is a big fan of Eifert.
"You can put out there 6-4, 6-5, 6-6. Somebody is going to be open," Trumpy said. "He's one of these kids that kind of floats. His feet hit the ground, but he doesn't leave a mark. From what I remember him at Notre Dame, it appears they relied on him heavily in the red zone and he can do a lot of things in the red zone that a lot of tight ends can't do. Stop. Start. Change direction. He's an awfully good target."
SLANTS AND SCREENS:
» According to Bengals play-by-play man Dan Hoard, Dalton sifted his first 12 completions in 11-on-11 and finished 14-of-15. Welcome back A.J. Green.
» Cornerback Brandon Ghee, who suffered a head injury in Atlanta, is anxious to get back on the field after his interception Thursday night and play a full preseason for the first time. He suffered a concussion in the third game of his rookie year in 2010, missed the first two games in 2011 with nagging injuries, and missed all of last year when he broke his wrist a week before the preseason opener.
"Slight concussion happens all the time. It doesn't affect anyone's play, you just can't practice," Ghee said. "I hate to miss practice because you get better and better every practice, but I feel pretty good and hopefully I do well on Saturday."
He says he should have had another pick later in the game in the third quarter.
"I should have had it. I slowed up on the play. I think I should have had another one."
» Rookie running back Rex Burkhead didn't mean to tackle defensive end DeQuin Evans during Evans's interception return on Wednesday. But he's not going to back down, either. It's how Burkhead plays.
"Our feet clicked. I really didn't try to bring him down or anything. Me and DQ were cool. We were laughing about it," Burkhead said. "He gave the little stiff-arm, so I made sure I got my hand on him at least. I wasn't going to get punked. I got my hand on him that's and when our feet clicked.
"That's how you have to practice. Finish plays. Especially on interceptions and the play's not over. You have to show the effort and finish the play."
INJURY REPORT: The Bengals were low on ends with Michael Johnson (unknown) and Carlos Dunlap (concussion) not suited and unlikely to play Saturday. Robert Geathers looked to be getting a rest day and should be able to play in a game where players have indicated starters are going to play the first half...Safety George Iloka looked to be battling a wrist injury and didn't practice. His Saturday status is unknown...Ghee (head) has returned and expects to play…Fullback John Conner (foot) was back working.
UP NEXT: The Bengals treated Thursday like a regular-season Friday and practiced early before taking the rest of the day off. They come back to work Friday to prepare for Saturday's 7 p.m. game (11:35 p.m,-Channel 12) against Tennessee. They're off Sunday before Monday night's last public practice at Springboro High School at 5:30 that is free and open.