Updated: 8:45 p.m.
A.J. Green might not even have realized it.
But as he checked in Monday with the rest of the Bengals for the start of offseason workouts at Paul Brown Stadium, he uttered the words that head coach Marvin Lewis just put on the first edition 2013 workout shirts:
"Get Better Together."
Green, the two-time Pro Bowl receiver, was talking about his phone discussions with quarterback Andy Dalton during the offseason.
"We just have to get better together. There's a lot of stuff we need to work on together," Green said. "Last year we missed some stuff on the deep ball. We both can do lot of stuff better."
Green admitted he's still hearing about the first half in Houston during the Wild Card playoff game, when he wasn't targeted.
"Everybody," said Green when asked who has asked him about the last game of the season.
Green expressed frustration a few weeks later during a Super Bowl appearance, but that's all.
"I wasn't angry. I was just a little upset. It happens," he said.
Green didn't have all that many drops last season, considering he was the sixth-most targeted receiver in the NFL with 158, according to Pro Football Focus. The web site had him for 10 drops, tied for 11th in the NFL. Wes Welker had 15 off of 166 targets.
But the Bengals apparently had Green for seven drops.
"I had a lot more targets than I had the first year," Green said. "I had like seven drops. It happens but I want to have less than seven."
But dropped passes haven't been his problem down the stretch. It has been getting the ball to him. In his two Decembers and Januarys, Green has just two touchdowns in 12 regular-season and playoff games and is only averaging 11.3 yards and five catches.
Compare that to 15.9 yards per his other catches and 16 touchdowns in his other 21 games.
Green agrees that defenses have simply played him tighter later in the season and he doesn't chalk it up the revolving-door opposite him at the other receiver spot.
"Early in the season you still have to prove yourself. See what you can do. End of season people pay more attention as I start making plays," he said. "As I made more plays, defenses were trying to take me out of the game. That's the only thing."
The big thing, of course is the lack of the deep ball. In those 12 games, Green has just three catches of at least 40 yards. In his 21 other games, he has 12. The biggest disconnect was the overthrow in the end zone of a wide-open Green with three minutes left that would have won the playoff game.
"You look at the tape and there are times you wish you had a throw back or, for him, I'm sure there are times with his releases and different things like that," Dalton said. "For us it's just about getting that timing down and now is the perfect time to work on that."
Dalton seemed a little bit more willing to hang it up to Green as a rookie and let him make a play.
"It was the way defenses play," said Green, but he did admit sometimes the deep one isn't the way it is drawn up.
"Sometimes you have to take chances."
And Green realizes that Dalton has other people in his ear telling him not to turn it over. The coaches believe there's a big correlation between Cincinnati's 7-1 finish and Dalton's five interceptions, six fewer than the first eight games.
"That's the fight out there," Dalton said. "When you have a guy like him you want to get him the ball but you don't want to be forcing things, you don't want to be making stupid decisions.
"With a guy like A.J., the term 'open' is different. There's times going back and looking at the film I still probably could have thrown it to him on certain routes and different things where I tried to work somewhere else but it comes down to being smart with the ball. It's knowing when to take those chances with him and knowing when to move on."
The answer seems to lie not with Dalton and Green, but Dalton and his other targets.
"It depends on the situation. A.J. got a lot of Cover 2 to his side so they tried to take away some of the vertical throws and things like that," Dalton said. "With A.J. and the type of player he is, the big thing with him is moving him around and finding ways to get him the ball even when they are doubling and finding ways to get him open."
While Green is shelving the disappointment of Houston, Dalton is keeping in mind how the Bengals got there.
"The more I'm playing, the more I'm getting a better feel for our guys, especially A.J. The biggest thing is you don't want to turn the ball over," Dalton said. "If you win the turnover battle, more than likely you're going to have a better shot at winning the game. I think that was the biggest thing for the run we had at the end. We may not have been playing as well offensively but we weren't turning the ball over, the defense was playing well and we were finding ways to win games."
Green is looking for the same thing. The Un-Diva didn't return raving for the ball.
"That's not me. Control what I can control and get open," he said.
BUZZ GAMES: Reports over the weekend had The Bengals close to a deal with former Steelers outside linebacker James Harrison, but there wasn't one Monday. Still, it had the locker room buzzing on Day 1. No one knows the former NFL Defensive Player of the Year better than left tackle Andrew Whitworth in a mammoth matchup during which Whitworth is believed to have allowed just one sack in the past four seasons.
"If it happens, it'd be great. I have all the respect in the world for James," Whitworth said. "He's a guy that I think would be great in this locker room. He's no-nonsense, really dedicated, fierce competitor. He's one of those guys that sets a tone the way he plays the game. It would be great to have him in our locker room."
Pro Bowl defensive tackle Geno Atkins, whose 12.5 sacks led the Bengals franchise-best 51 last year, says the more the merrier.
"He'd bring some attitude, tenacity and physical play to the defense. It would be an extra boost," Atkins said. "There's always enough room. You can't have too many pass rushers with this being a throwing league."
WHIT ON ANDRE: Whitworth sounds as in the dark as everyone else when it comes to the Andre Smith negotiations as the Bengals try to re-sign their right tackle and last major deal before training camp.
"We've spoken during the process. Just encouraging him. Telling him I'm there if he needs me. Outside of that, it's none of my business what he does or doesn't do. He's his own man and he's got to make decisions that are best for him and his family," Whitworth said. "You just want to encourage him. Let him know you're there for him as a friend more so than anything else and hope it all goes well for him."
Whitworth said he can't call it.
"I don't get any sense on that. That's his decision. That's (the front office)'s decision," he said. "We'd love to have him back. If it doesn't happen, we have to move on. We've been in that position before. You have to be prepared for everything at this level. That's one thing you learn quickly."
GREENING OF GREEN: Green has been working out in Atlanta with a bunch of NFL receivers, including former Bengals teammmate Andre Caldwell as well as Detroit's Calvin Johnson and Denver's Demaryius Thomas. Last year Green had planned to travel to Minnesota to work with Arizona's Larry Fitzgerald after the June minicamp but it never came off. Green not only expects that to happen this year in late June or early July, but he also thinks the Bengals quarterbacks and receivers will hook up on their own before training camp in late July. The leading candidate for that site is Dalton's digs in Dallas, but Green's Atlanta shop could also be a lure.
INJURY UPDATE: Whitworth, who had an incision and arthroscopic surgery for some offseason maintenance on his knee, says it is rehabbing well and he expects to be ready the first day of training camp.
Left guard Travelle Wharton, who blew out his ACL on his third snap as a Bengal in the preseason opener last year, should be ready by then. But he's not sure if he'll be on the field for the first day of football work on May 20. He'll be in a reserve role now, where his experience as a starting left guard and tackle should help. With Andre Smith unsigned, he was asked if he could play right tackle: "It's football. Everything has it's own. It's going to take practice but I've never played it. We'll see."...
Wide receiver Mohamed Sanu confirmed what he said two months ago. He's back 100 percent from the injury he suffered in practice Nov. 29 that ended his season. He broke the fifth metatarsal,
the long bone on the outside of the foot that connects to the little toe.
"It feels great. I have no nagging pain or anything holding me back. I'm just excited to get back to it," Sanu said.
He admitted the rehab was more of a challenge mentally than physically.
"It was like 'aw, man.' It happened on a simple route that I do over and over," Sanu said. "You don't know what to expect or what to feel. It makes you not take this game for granted, because any play you can get hurt. So you've got to make sure that every play you're going as hard as you can."