When the Bengals drafted A.J. Green at No.4 overall in the 2011 draft, they knew that they were getting a special player--perhaps the best one in the class. The club and its fans figured that there would be growing pains with Green, as he would be playing with a rookie quarterback and a new offensive coordinator who was implementing a new system in a lockout-shortened offseason. Needless to say, the expectations were low.
Green and his quarterback, Andy Dalton, shattered those low expectations as both men led their club to a Wild Card berth. Both men need to take the next step and lead their team to the playoffs again in 2012, which is something that the club hasn't done in nearly 30 years. Speaking with FOXSports Ohio's Zac Jackson, Green appears ready to do what it takes to better himself and the club for 2012.
On being a leader, Jackson and Green had this to say:
Now, the Bengals have a full offseason to tinker with and tweak the offense, mix in some new pieces and try to get Dalton and Green to take things to another level. When four weeks of organized, on-field team activities kicked off Tuesday, Green was not only the primary target but the first guy in line for every wide receiver drill.
"I feel like I just want to be that leader that I know I can be," Green said. "I really don't lead by (being) vocal, I lead by example. I always want to be the first one in a drill and doing everything to the best of my ability. Some of the young guys can actually come along and watch what I do.
"You want (the best player) to be the hardest worker. (That) always makes it easy, man. You just come with that mentality every day that you are a professional and you come to work every day. I take pride in that. That's why I push myself to be great."
What a refreshing change from just two short seasons ago, where the mouthy Chad Ochocinco and Terrell Owens manned the receiver spots. Green just wants to put his head down and work and that was just one of the qualities that the Bengals loved about him going into that 2011 draft. His quiet demeanor is a one-eighty from many other receivers with the "diva" tag and Green appears to be content to lead by his play on the field, as well as his work ethic.
Speaking on the upcoming 2012 season and the expectations around the club, Green said:
His checklist for his second season includes another one of those trips and a longer stay in the postseason.
"It was good to get back and reflect on the season because everything was just quick, quick, quick," Green said. "Just reflecting on my season, I had a pretty good season. My ability, my foundation is set high and everything is set high off my first season.
"I've got to always go out there and compete. Compete every game. My biggest thing is consistency this year, just going out there and being consistent every game, 16 games through the season."...
"I don't believe in pressure," Green said. "It's just playing football, what I've always done."
Some might take that as uber-confident, maybe even bordering on cocky and/or conceited. The truth is, this confidence is something that has been lacking from this club since the 2005 season. And, it's not the same kind of cockiness/confidence that that 2005 division-winning club had. It's quiet confidence, built on hard work and camaraderie--not individual achievements.