The one thing that really ate at Bengals wide receiver Greg Little when the Browns unceremoniously released him back in May were the anonymous reports that they did it because of character issues.
And it was probably why he let it be known before Tuesday's practice that he'll take it quite personally Thursday (8:25 p.m.-Cincinnati's Channel 5 or NFL Network) when the Browns come to Paul Brown Stadium.
"Those types of things are fluttered through however they get out," Little said. "But if you go back and look at the comments from previous coordinator and coaches they have quoted that I was the hardest working player in the team. I am not trying to discredit other players on that team. I'm trying to say when I'm at work I am working and I'm going to do everything to get my team better."
He had one supporter in that area and it came from an unlikely source: another receiver playing against his old team on Thursday. Andrew Hawkins crossed paths with Little for a few weeks in Cleveland after he left the Bengals as a restricted free agent and before Little got cut.
"He's a hard worker. That's the first thing I noticed about him," Hawkins said in Tuesday's conference call with the Cincinnati media. "From Day 1, Greg worked his butt off. When he got picked up by the Bengals, I told them he'll fit in because he's a hard worker. You didn't hear that about him that much in the media. But he's a hard worker and a good guy. I'm cool with Greg. We were texting not too long ago when he first came to Cincinnati, so I wish Greg nothing but the best over there."
A third-round pick of Cleveland in 2011, Little led the club in receiving for two years and when Pro Bowl wide receiver Josh Gordon began this season on suspension and new general manager Ray Farmer didn't draft a receiver, he looked to be a mainstay. Then he was gone, he said, because the front office decided to go in a different direction.
"Everything about this game is personal to me. I'm going to go out and lay it on the line," Little said. "They cut me. They said that I wasn't good enough to play on their team. That's about all I need."
But he also said he had no relationship with new Browns head coach Mike Pettine.
"I didn't get along with Pettine. He doesn't talk to any of his players," Little said. "You'll walk past him in the hallway and he won't even speak to you. To have that type of relationship with a coach is kind of odd. I can't say I'm going to go out and lay it on the line for guy that won't even speak to me if we're the only two people in the hallway."
On Pettine's own conference call five hours later, he gave Little a pass and moved on, citing the business of football.
"I didn't get to know Greg very well and it's unfortunate. I pride myself on my communication with the team and I know it's so much more than an Xs and Os business," Pettine said. "It's a people's business. The guys that I've coached and who have been around me long enough, I think they know what I stand for and know what I'm about.
"But I get it. It's a place where he had a career and got released. The personal part, I get," Pettine said. "I don't like it when people say it's not personal. It is personal. I agree with him there. It's very personal. You're talking about somebody's livelihood, their job, and families. It's a tough thing. But it's a part of football. I have no ill will toward Greg. He certainly proved he's an NFL caliber player. We just didn't think he was a good fit for what we were trying to accomplish moving forward."
It sounds like this is more about Little and Farmer than Little and Pettine. Little didn't like how the whole thing was handled.
"I was coming in to a new coaching staff I was growing towards and they were looking at me to come in and play well. I had a great relationship with them and the front office decided to go in another direction," Little said. "Hopefully I'll make them pay...It was for sure, 100 percent all (Farmer)."
Little has made an impact since signing with the Bengals Oct. 14. After grabbing huge third-down catches in the first and last touchdown drives during the Oct. 26 victory over Baltimore, he had no targets last Sunday in the win over Jacksonville.
Last Sunday was Pro Bowl wide receiver A.J. Green's return to the lineup, so Little didn't have the same role. They signed him because they needed to give Mohamed Sanu help on the outside until Green came back. Now that Green is back, Little gets that.
"This is a good team already. My job is to come in and make sure we don't miss a beat," Little said, "And try to add anything I can bring to the team whether its energy or a big third-down play or a touchdown or whatever it is that's what I'm here for."
While dismissing the communication in Cleveland, Little is complimentary to the environment head coach Marvin Lewis and offensive coordinator Hue Jackson have cultivated at PBS
"Being in this locker room is very receptive. I didn't have any problems in the locker room in Cleveland. Those are some of my closest friends, I love them but here it's the same feeling," Little said. "You have that college type of feel around here where everybody is close and Marvin is very close with a lot of guys on the team and Hue and everybody, all the coaches are very receptive to players and their lives off the field. That just gives you the added energy to go and lay it on the line for the coaches and guys in the locker room."
Little is going to make sure he lets Jackson know everything he knows about the Browns DBs.
"These guys know them just like I do," Little said. (Jackson) is one very smart guy I've seen that and he knows what makes these guys tick and knows what's going to get us up and down the field. I can only add to it what I know and try to help guys and their tendencies on the other side."
INJURY UPDATE: It looks like the players who didn't work Monday also didn't go Tuesday in the only full-scale workout before the game and aren't going to play against the Browns. Certainly not middle linebacker Rey Maualuga (hamstring) and probably not running back Giovani Bernard (hip, shoulder), cornerback Leon Hall (concussion) and right tackle Andre Smith (ankle). Smith was in a boot for the second straight day. Tight end Jermaine Gresham, not on Monday's injury report, emerged from the locker room during practice in sweats and did not practice. Neither did cornerback Terence Newman (chest) and defensive lineman Robert Geathers (shoulder).
Cornerback Darqueze Dennard (hamstring) went limited and right guard Kevin Zeitler (calf) went full for the second straight day.
And it looks like cornerback Darqueze Dennard (hamstring) is still limited. Tight end Jermaine Gresham, not on Monday's injury report, emerged from the locker room during practice in sweats.
PRIME ALTERNATIVE? No one at PBS is very enthralled with the idea of playing four days apart. And they seem to have company. This season's Thursday Night games have had all the drama of rerun. The home teams only have a 5-3 edge, but the spread for the home club is 238-182.
Left tackle Andrew Whitworth, the club's player rep to the NFL Players Association, like most of his teammates, have spent nearly every waking hour since Sunday's win over the Jags in the cold tub. He wonders if there's a better way.
"I wish there was a different way to do it for sure. I don't think there's a player in the league that doesn't want a way to get a little bit of an ease off the body and do something different," Whitworth said. "But the truth is college football has kind of taken that slot on Saturday nights now, so Saturday night games don't really exist like they did when I first got in the league. I wish we could find a way to do it differently. There's no doubt about it. You could have more 4 o'clock games. Have an extra Sunday night game. There's got to be ways to find more prime time games and get more teams and (cities) that are interested in seeing their teams play."
The Bengals are 2-3 on Thursday nights under head coach Marvin Lewis, but it all began on Sept. 15, 1983 in Cleveland, when two Browns' interceptions of Cincinnati quarterback Ken Anderson translated into a 17-7 loss.