Wide receiver A.J. Green has gone to three Pro Bowls managing to stay in-bounds with gravity-defying grace. Now he's talking about stepping out of the box. Green doesn't plan on going Ocho. But arguably the quietest superstar in the NFL is talking about talking.
"Be more vocal. With teammates and get more involved and step out of your box a little bit," Green said Monday when asked about his offseason plans. "You have to do that in order to be great. … It is going to be hard but I feel like I've done enough here to say some things. I still have to be more vocal. Not selfish, but talk to people."
Green agrees with offensive coordinator Jay Gruden that there was some pressing going on in the third quarter when the Bengals got behind Sunday.
"We can't turn the ball over, for one. We've got to be even key the whole game," Green said of what his message would be. "That was the first time in a while that when we got behind we were pressing. The last couple games we were down, we were like 'Ah, we can come back.' I felt like yesterday we were pressing a little bit trying to come back."
Green has watched some great leaders in his locker room with a variety of styles. There is "The Governor" Andrew Whitworth and his southern fried accessibility, along with the stoic film study of Leon Hall, the big heart of Domata Peko and the jump-on-my back motor of Reggie Nelson. If there is a guy that Green resembles it is Hall, quietly an elite player. The only man who has caught more yards in his first three NFL seasons is Randy Moss, so you figure Green should have no problem getting someone's attention.
"We have a bunch of good leaders here like Whit, Reg, Peko, those guys. Leon. I've got to step out of my box and be a little more vocal," Green said. "When (Hall) talks, people listen."
That's how Green envisions it. He's already been vocal about his support for quarterback Andy Dalton and he was again Monday.
"We drafted him here for a reason. We've been to three straight playoff games, we just haven't won them," Green said. "If we would've won that playoff game he would've been the greatest quarterback ever. But we lost, and now he's the worst quarterback ever. It's just not fair. But it's the name of the position. If we don't win, they blame the quarterback. But we've all got his back and know what we can do. He's our guy."
Offensive coordinator Jay Gruden is all for it and counts it as part of the improving process he stressed in Monday's final meeting with the offense.
"I think he has that ability to do that. I think he should step out of his comfort zone a little bit and try to reach for more both in his leadership role and out on the field," Gruden said. "I think he can grab for more than he's taken right now. He's a great player, but like I told everybody in the meeting room today, there's nobody in this room that can't improve. Everybody can improve, including him."
Green says he won't be getting married this offseason, but maybe next. His biggest priority right now, besides getting ready to go to Hawaii for the Jan. 26 Pro Bowl is to get golf clubs that fit him. His current bag is too short.
But he won't be coming up short when it comes to cash. This offseason is the first chance the Bengals get to talk to him about a long-term deal. His current contract calls for four years at $19.6 million.
"I'll just play it by ear. It is whatever. My body of work will speak for itself. Whatever they want," Green said. "Anybody would like that (to have it done before the season). Everybody would love for that to happen. But it is what it is. I'm not in any financial debt, so no rush."
CROCKER ACHES: You know what hurts for Chris Crocker, the ever so valuable Bengals nickel back? After four cities, 154 NFL games, three in the post season, "This is the best team I've ever been on," he said. "I know because I've been on good teams here and this team won't be the same next year. Teams are never the same. So to win 11 games and accomplish what we did, it's really tough not to win a playoff game."
Crocker admits "it all seems like it was all for nothing, but one game doesn't define a year. We just haven't got over the hump yet."
And Crocker may not get another shot. He turns 34 in two months and he was on the couch this year and last year when the seasons began before rescuing a Bengals secondary that was either injured or inexperienced or both when he showed up the past two Septembers. His plans are, as usual, under wraps. He says he'll go home "to reassess," and no doubt the Bengals will, too.
"I like to be a little mysterious there," he said.
Hall, the team's top nickel back, is coming off his second torn Achilles in three seasons, and Dre Kirkpatrick, who started the last four games while Crocker patrolled inside, can also play the slot. The Bengals seem comfortable with George Iloka starting opposite Nelson at safety.
Asked if the Bengals need major changes, Crocker said no.
"I think we need to make better decisions handling the ball, getting more turnovers," he said. "Those things, in hindsight, you always say you can do better. But the personnel is there, the players are there, the roster is there. We just have to win a playoff game."
SIX ADDED: Six players from the practice squad were added to the roster that is activated the Monday after the Super Bowl, Feb. 3: wide receiver Cobi Hamilton, center T.J. Johnson, defensive end David King, cornerback Onterio McCalebb, linebacker Bruce Taylor and center Scott Wedige.