These are the sweetest of possible words with a Bengals opener less than 72 hours away.
"I feel good. I took the proper rest that I needed for getting this thing back to 100 percent. I feel good. I practiced Monday and yesterday full speed and today the same thing. So I feel good."
Such were the words of franchise wide receiver A.J. Green before Thursday's practice and the Chargers looming Sunday (4:05 p.m.-Cincinnati's Local 12) at Paul Brown Stadium. Green, who tweaked a hamstring early in camp, is more than anxious for his first game in nearly two years after toe and ankle injuries have wiped out basically the last 24 games of his career.
"I'm nervous before every game no matter what the situation is. So I'll probably be a little more nervous leading up to this game because it's been awhile," Green said. "But I think I'm more excited to get out there than scared or nervous. I'm just anxious to get out there and just play football, just get back to playing football."
GENO SHELVED AGAIN: But the news wasn't so good on the Bengals' other active Pro Football Hall of Fame candidate, eight-time Pro Bowl defensive tackle Geno Atkins (shoulder). It looks like Atkins' streak of starting 96 straight games after his 2013 torn ACL is in jeopardy.
His replacement, nine-year vet Mike Daniels (groin), returned in limited fashion after not going Wednesday, so it appears like he'll get the start in his Bengals debut after what now looks like one of their more fortuitous free-agent signings of this offseason. They wrapped up Daniels with a quick strike just before training camp in the wake of nose tackle Josh Tupou's opt-out and defensive tackle Ryan Glasgow's knee problems.
But the Chargers may not have their own great player in the middle with center Mike Pouncey (hip) missing practice again Thursday and it's not looking good for him to play.
Word is that Atkins doesn't look like he's got an injury that is going to take weeks to heal and he may even be considered a game-time decision.
The old cliché that injuries always run amok in position groups has been true this training camp not once, but twice.
They lost one of their big free agents, cornerback Trae Waynes, to pectoral surgery, before they got on the field, where cornerback Darius Phillips (knee) had been out some. LeShaun Sims took his starter snaps, but he's dealing with a personal issue and missed his second straight practice Thursday while Phillips (knee) went limited after going full Wednesday.
Safety Shawn Williams (calf) got hurt three weeks ago and has been considered questionable for the opener. He has yet to practice, but looks close to coming back.
Left end Carlos Dunlap, who had a rest day Wednesday, went full Thursday.
HART TO HART: If right tackle Bobby Hart heard the rumblings that maybe sophomore Fred Johnson was poised to push him in training camp after Johnson played well on the left side at the end of last year, Hart wasn't letting on. And he's still got his job.
"I had already put in my mind that I wanted to become a better player," said Hart on his Thursday media Zoom. "I didn't really put any thought into it about my position or nothing like that. I just know that I wanted to get better as a player anyway. I didn't (worry) about losing my position or nothing like that. I understand every year they're bringing in people to take your position. That's just the nature of the game. I had that mentality in my game and I understand that part of the game."
Offensive line coach Jim Turner likes Hart's combination of intensity, intelligence and athleticism so it's going to take a lot to blow him out of there. While many of his linemates transformed their bodies this offseason (particularly on the left side with tackle Jonah Williams and guard Michael Jordan, not to mention versatile backup Billy Price), Hart believes he found more speed and feels quicker.
But he won't tell you how he found that new and improved first step.
"I've adapted like a whole new level of training this offseason, just to go to the next level that I want to go to," said Hart as he heads into his sixth season. "I just felt like I was make progression over the years, but I wanted to really assert myself as who I destined myself to be as a football player so I know that I had to go that much harder.
"That's my little secret. I don't want to give much of that (away). Just know that we got in the lab, man, me and my team. Like I said, I felt like I had made progression from the first year I got here to the second year, but I didn't want it to stop there. I just wanted to keep ascending as a player. "
LYNN's LOOK: Chargers head coach Anthony Lynn checked in with the Bengals media via conference call Thursday and admitted with no pre-season games it is a bit hard to get a handle on a mysterious Bengals offense that has a rookie quarterback (Joe Burrow), a rookie left tackle (Jonah Williams) and a great Pro Bowl wide receiver (Green) who hasn't played in nearly two years.
But the Chargers, who ended up drafting Oregon's Justin Herbert five picks after the Bengals took Burrow No. 1, scouted Burrow pretty well and took the time to interview him a few times during the draft process.
"I thought his college tape was outstanding, some of the best I've seen in a long, long time so I liked him coming out," Lynn said. "I had a chance to visit with him a few times and he's just a natural leader and I know the guys will follow him and he's a winner, so think they got themselves a heck of a quarterback.
"There's no tape so you don't know what to expect. The quarterback is very similar to the one they had last year in Andy (Dalton). They both can move and do things and throw the ball extremely well. You have to look at a lot film. You have to go back and look at LSU. But at the end of the day you have to be sound and make adjustments as you see fit."
SLANTS AND SCREENS: It looks like Burrow is one of these guys that thinks of everything. While all his teammates wore their practice togs on Thursday, including the orange-clad quarterback jerseys, Burrow wore his orange-and-black game No. 9 to make sure it felt just right so there would be no Sunday wardrobe malfunctions …
Hart says he's given Williams some advice for his debut on a day both are tangling with prolific Chargers pass rushers Joey Bosa and Melvin Ingram.
"Just for him to try to and use his athleticism. He's so athletic. He has so many tools, so many gifts. Just to trust it, man, and just let it fly," Hart said. "That's why we're here and were there in camp and everything. You feel the pressure and everything. Everybody get the butterflies in the stomach. But I just tell him just let it loose and be who he is. We wouldn't have drafted you where we drafted you if you didn't have the athleticism and the tools to be the person that you could be. Just trust yourself is one of the big things." ….
Usually, the 310-pound Williams gets the 280-pound Bosa and the 310-pound Hart gets the 247-pound Ingram.
"I would say (Ingram) is more athletic, shiftier than Bosa," Hart said. "He uses it to his advantage because he definitely has some pop and some give to him too. He's definitely (shiftier) than Joey." …
Like Bengals head coach Zac Taylor, Lynn is keeping what the Chargers are going to do about the national anthem mum.
"We hadn't discussed that just yet. I think in year's past that's gotten too much attention. I don't want to spend a lot of time talking about that," Lynn said. "Our guys know we've created an environment here they can speak up about what is going on in the world. As long as they are not creating or being a distraction and so far they haven't been, they've been very passionate about change. If they want to protest, then that is their right to protest and guys will do that differently and we will respect one another in the way we protest or not protest. I'm not really concerned about that, just when the whistle blow I want my guys ready to play. " …