A.J. Green meets up with offseason workout partner Calvin Johnson this Sunday in Detroit (1 p.m.-Cincinnati's Channel 12), but he claims there's no rivalry with his fellow Pro Bowl wide receiver; the man Green thinks is the best receiver in the NFL.
The 6-5, 240-pound Johnson, who came into the league as the second pick in the 2007 draft, has got the size and experience on the 6-4, 214-pound Green, the fourth pick in the 2011 draft.
But as he heads into his 38th NFL game at Ford Field, Green has it all over Johnson in a breakdown of their first 37 games: Green has 199 catches for 2,871 yards and 22 TDs for a 14.4-yard catch average. Johnson had 150 catches for 2,438 yards and 17 touchdowns for 16.3 yards per catch before the Detroit offense found stability with quarterback Matthew Stafford.
And at the moment, Johnson is hurting with a knee ailment and has just 24 catches. Last week against Cleveland he was on a snap count and played just 52 percent of the snaps with three catches for 25 yards. He's expected to play more this week, but not more than about 80 percent.
Still, Bengals cornerback Leon Hall figures the Lions are going to try to find Johnson. Whether or not the Bengals allowed two balls of at least 40 yards to journeyman Bills quarterback Thad Lewis last Sunday.
"I'm sure they'll try working off last week's game, regardless how well we played the deep ball," Hall said before Wednesday's practice. "They'll try to get it to him deep. He's a great receiver and a great deep threat."
Although he's covered Green so many times in training camp, Hall says that really won't help because Johnson is such an anomaly.
"They're different receivers," Hall said. "Calvin's bigger. It's hard to prepare for him. You don't really meet guys like that too often. They can both run really well, but just looking at them, Calvin is bigger.
"You have to be careful what you do with him because he's physical, too. You have to pick and choose what you want to do. A specific technique. You have to be smart. You definitely don't want to be physical the whole game because sometimes it will counteract you."
But as different as they are on the field, Green and Johnson seem to have the same outlook off it. Bengals head coach Marvin Lewis and his good friend, Lions head coach Jim Schwartz, talked about that before the 2012 draft when Schwartz told him some things about his best player.
"They are very similar personalities. (Johnson) is a guy, from what Jimmy has said hasn't let his success on the field really alter the type of person he is; very Larry Fitzgerald-like," Lewis said. "He's a guy that's still very grounded and really wants the team to succeed. That's important to him. It's the same characteristics we see in A.J."
Johnson and Fitzgerald have been at the forefront of the anti-diva movement that has emerged at the receiver position the last few years. Guys like Green and Julio Jones may have grown up watching the Chad Johnsons, the T.Os, and Joe Horns, but they emulate the less bombastic Fitzgerald and Calvin Johnson.
(You ever hear the old guard worry openly about their body language?)
When the Bengals were in Atlanta practicing against the Falcons of Jones and Roddy White back in August, Lewis fell into a discussion with Falcons receivers coach Terry Robiske about distributing the ball and being able to put the great receiver in different spots.
"Is it better to catch 100 passes and win six games, or better for you to catch 70 passes and win 12 games? Or 14 games, or whatever it may be; that's the thing," Lewis said. "That this is a team game, and you play a position that if they want to keep you from catching the football, they can. And so hopefully the rest of the football team is strong enough, and we put enough guys around you, that we can be successful until they figure out they're going to get beat another way, and maybe they ease up off you. And you as a player have to have the flexibility and the ability to play different spots like A.J. has, like Calvin Johnson does.
"They don't just line up at one spot. Calvin Johnson, when they have three wide receivers, will be at any of the three receiver spots, just like A.J. will be for us. Guys that have that intellect and smarts about them understand they can be shut down if they are pigeon-holed in one spot, but it takes me a little bit more time to adjust coverage to you if you can end up in all three spots. It makes the other team do a little more coaching."
Green, who played at Georgia, moved to Atlanta when he turned pro in 2011 and during the lockout before that season was looking for a place to work out. His college teammate, Mohamed Massaquoi, was working out at Georgia Tech with Johnson and Green "went out for a couple days and met him and been working since then."
"I take note of what he has done on and off the field and try to apply it to my own," Green said. "Just the way he goes about his business when the ball is in his hand, getting yards after contact."
Green says he's watching the best.
"I think so. Right now he is because he can do everything," Green said. "He can go get the ball, run any routes, take a screen 80 yards for a touchdown."
In true anti-diva fashion, Green won't call Sunday a competition.
"I don't think so," he said. "I just go out there and play my game and he will do the same. I don't try to get caught up in all that stuff."
SUH HIT: It's believed the Bengals have been told by the NFL that two personal foul calls on linebacker Vontaze Burfict last Sunday in Buffalo weren't warranted. But the league did come down on one of their next opponents Wednesday when according to Dave Birkett of the *Detroit Free Press *via Pro Football Talk, Lions defensive tackle Ndamukong Suh was fined $31,500 for last week's hit in the chest of Browns quarterback Brandon Weeden. According to Birkett, Suh has now been fined nearly a half-million dollars if his two-game suspension is also included.
The Bengals have been soft-pedaling the matchup against Suh and aren't looking to dole out any bulletin-board material. Quarterback Andy Dalton suddenly got in the mix on the 11th play of his career in the 2011 preseason opener in Detroit when Suh was called for roughing as Dalton's helmet came rolling off.
"He's a guy that plays hard. Sometimes he's done some things a lot of people question, but it's kind of part of it," Dalton said before Wednesday's practice. "It was early in the game. My first NFL experience. The helmet popped off and he kind of slammed me. We kept going after that. Stuff like that is going to happen, unfortunately. You can't worry about it. You know where he is. You can't worry about all that extra stuff, you just have to go out and play."
Center Kyle Cook is going to go against Suh all day in some form and he says it's not a situation where he'll have his head on a swivel more than normal.
"This is a defense that's filled with a bunch of good players. Anytime you play, you've got to play with your head on a swivel; you have to be ready for anything," Cook said. "They play football in some terms, whistle to whistle. Full out. You just know that.
"He's a good player. He's a good player. He's a good player who plays hard. He plays with passion, obviously. Some people think his passion is stretched out at times to where he does some things that he probably wishes he didn't do, but in the moment he thought (they) were in the game."
For his part, Suh said all the right things in quotes that were distributed by the Lions before news broke of the fine.
"Just knowing and going against Andy Dalton, he does get rid of the ball, and he's a guy that manages their game really well," Suh said. "He doesn't want to make mistakes and doesn't want to have turnovers, so he's going to make quick accurate decisions to make sure he protects that ball. I think it's going to be a challenge for us as it has been with previous games this year." Suh also has high regard for Cincinnati's own stud defensive tackle, Geno Atkins. Which shows the whims of the draft. Suh was the second player taken in the 2010 draft, Atkins the 120th player.
"I definitely have an ultimate respect for Geno—actually have known about him since he was down in Georgia playing. I knew he was a stout defensive tackle," Suh said. "He obviously has been able to translate what he did in college to the pros, which is what I wanted to strive to do when I came in the 2010 draft as well.
"He's definitely good with his hands. He knows how to get in to the body of an offensive lineman and move them back in to the backfield. Obviously, he can shed off and make a play and get to the quarterback, which is most important."