For the first time since late July, Cincinnati Bengals veteran wide receiver A.J. Green was out there on the practice field. He was able to participate on a limited basis since suffering an injury on the first day of training camp, already at the time recovering from a toe injury that ended his 2018 season.
Amid the injury issue, the intention was to work on a long-term contract extension for the former fourth-overall pick, who is entering the final year of his contract. But given the circumstances, it never got done. The Bengals have gone 0-5 so far without him, as though they needed a reminder of his worth.
“I tell everybody I haven’t heard anything. I don’t fantasize about anything like that. I’m just trying to get healthy and go from there”. That is what Green told the team’s website about the rumors that they might possibly consider dealing him in what already appears to be another lost season.
“I’m prepared for anything”, he acknowledged. “A trade’s not going to change who I am. I’m still going to play. I’m still going to be A.J.”. But he has previously been very outspoken about his desire to stay with the Bengals, even citing Larry Fitzgerald and his ability to remain with the Arizona Cardinals for his entire career as an inspiration.
“That’s just not who I am. I’m loyal to the person who gave me my shot, he said. “They took care of Larry. He’s a Cardinal. No matter how many times they rebuild, he’s a Cardinal. He’s the only guy still there”.
Only Green and Andy Dalton remain from his 2011 draft class, though the Bengals do have a few older players, mostly specialists. The exceptions are Geno Atkins and Carlos Dunlap along the defensive line, who have one more year of experience. There is also Andre Smith, in his 11th season, who has bounced around and not consistently been with the team. Generally, however, it’s a young roster, with 32 players between their rookie and fourth seasons.
Some faces have come and gone with the old regime, with new head coach Zac Taylor being brought in. But he, at least on the surface, squashed any rumors about an interest in parting with Green, who when healthy is arguably the best player on their roster.
“He’s going to be a part of this team. I’m not looking to trade him”, he told reporters yesterday. “He’s a big part of this team, a big part of this organization. When he comes back he’ll be a big boost for us. l love being around the guy. Love everything about him. So we want him around here”.
Truthfully, it’s unclear what they might get for him, anyway, given that he is not yet healthy and would only be had for about half a season. Still, whenever he has been on the field, he has been productive. Last season was the first in which he didn’t make the Pro Bowl, after missing about half the year.