A.J. Green speaks to the media Thursday as training camp gets underway.
Updated: 2:45 p.m.
The Bengals' first full day of work in the preseason spotlight began, fittingly enough, with Pro Bowl wide receiver A.J. Green and quarterback Andy Dalton alternating in the media room Thursday.
For Green, the reluctant superstar, it was his first trip into the room since Draft Day two years and a surprise as PR chiefs Jack Brennan and P.J. Combs looked for filler since Dalton stayed late on the practice field after the morning walkthrough.
But Green was relaxed and comfortable as he accepted congratulations on last week's engagement. It turns out he popped the question right after the last session of the A.J. Green football camp.
While Dalton got all the leadership questions, Green admitted that he, too, in his third season, feels more at ease in the spotlight and leading his teammates.
"I'm not a vocal leader, but if you watch me … ," he said.
And while Dalton has taken the heat for seven months for his overthrow in the end zone as the clock ticked under three minutes in the 19-13 Wild Card loss in Houston, Green said Thursday he should have put his head down and "dug" a little harder.
One way to get Green open? He and offensive coordinator Jay Gruden have been talking about putting him in the slot more. Green figures he was inside about 30 percent of last year's snaps.
"They really can't double you in the slot. A lot of mismatches with the linebacker and safety on you," said Green, who noticed Gruden emphasized it this spring. "I think he would. We did a lot last year and my first year he worked me in the slot some in the end of the season in some slot. In this OTAs I worked quite a bit in the slot."
As for Dalton, Green said, "This is his team...You can tell he's more confident," and Dalton agreed.
"That's the way it should be," he said. "The quarterback has to be the leader. He's the one with the ball in his hands every play."
Other notables out of the locker room before the Bengals took the field at 3 p.m. for their first practice: » The plan for right tackle Andre Smith, who didn't report to the voluntary camps and was fined for missing the mandatory camp, is for him to address the media after practice. He's not working and has gone on the non-football injury list with what is believed to be not a serious calf injury.
Smith's Alabama teammate, cornerback Dre Kirkpatrick**, said Smith has given him a lot of support and "is my big brother." Like Smith, Kirkpatrick missed virtually his entire training camp as a rookie last year after getting drafted in the first round before only playing in five games with a bone spur near his knee. He's ready to go Thursday and as he surveyed the media crush at his locker he observed, "I'm probably the only guy in the country excited about training camp."
Kirkpatrick is not excited about all that missed time.
"My mom called me and she was upset because the guy on the news back home said, 'The forgotten Dre Kirkpatrick.' That just adds a little more fuel to my fire … you motivated me."
Another thing you forget. Kirkpatrick is a good quote. In Bengals defensive coordinator Mike Zimmer and 'Bama head coach Nick Saban, you've got two hard-boiled guys and he's not so sure that Zimmer smiles more than Saban.
"Tough coaching. I've always been accustomed to tough coaching because Coach Saban is a fiery guy. Zim is a fiery guy. I wouldn't want to have it any other way. And I love Zim," Kirpatrick said. "It's about 50-50. I'm going to give you 50-50. I'm not going to put one over the other. They're both smiling.
"Similar. The tough coaching. The tough love. I feel like if you can't take tough love, you can't overcome adversity because that's the first step to me is overcoming adversity. When you've got a coach that's on your head at all times, that's how it is in the game."
Kirkpatrick was stunned when he saw Saban dance after Alabama won the national title.
"He did a dance. I've never seen him do a dance. He did a dance. It's 50-50 because they both show me signs every day something I've never seen before," said Kirkpatrick, who could see Zimmer dancing. "Give him a crystal ball and you'll never know."
What he does know after one season is the NFL is a far different world than college.
"It's a grown man's world and the weak get left behind. You just have to come out here every day like it's your last day."
» No one had a rougher offseason this side of the Rockies than running back Cedric Peerman. The Cafe Du Monde in New Orleans' French Quarter is known for its beignets, but Peerman is going to remember it for beginning his freaky string of bad luck. Peerman, one of the Bengals special teams leaders, missed all of the spring workouts because of a foot injury he suffered while chasing down a man who swiped his fiancée's cell phone off the table they were sitting at outside the restaurant.
"Some kid just comes out of nowhere, just takes her phone off the table. I thought it was her wallet. There was a delayed reaction by myself. She got up and ran and I got up and ran," Peerman said. "It wasn't too smart running after the guy because you never know. People are carrying guns, they could be working with other people."
But when Peerman closed to within 10 yards, the thief "kind of peeked back and gave it up. I jumped down some small stairs, landed on my heel in the process. I didn't feel anything while I was running."
Peerman came back from that, but then about three weeks ago at Virginia Beach, Va., he got his foot caught awkwardly in a wave and hurt his ankle. He's not sure how long he'll be on the non-football injury list but "hopefully soon" he'll be off it.
"It's just a couple of weird things," he said. » As expected, right end Michael Johnson showed up for workThursday saying all the right things. Last week the Bengals were talking to him about a long-term deal, but when they reached a six-year extension with left end Carlos Dunlap the July 15 franchise deadline passed and he's working on a one-year, $11.1 million deal.
And he says he's "very comfortable" with the arrangement. The Bengals say they won't give up trying to sign him after the season and before free agency.
"I signed it back in March. If I didn't like it I wouldn't have signed it. That's the way it played out. I'm here to give everything I've got and have fun and help them make a Super Bowl run," Johnson said. "Because that's the goal. At the end of the day, to be great you've got to put the team goals ahead of everything else. That's what we're all doing here, and that's why I think we've got a good shot at doing something special. I'm happy to be a part of it. Everything else will follow. If the team does well, the defense does well, you do well, everybody wins. It's going to all be all right."
Johnson and Dunlap are friends and it's going to stay that way. Johnson wasn't surprised when he emerged from a massage and Dunlap had the deal.
"I was excited for him. He's done a lot of good things for us since he's been here. He works hard. He deserves it," he said. "First thing I did was hit him up and congratulate him.
"I knew they wanted to get something done with me, him and Geno (Atkins). It just didn't work out with me. It is what it is. It's not going to be a distraction or anything. We're still going to go out and ball, and when it's time to take another look at that next year, then we'll do it."