One of the first dramatic moments of last year's Hard Knocks stint was a knee injury to A.J. Green. He went up for a deep ball from Andy Dalton and landed awkwardly. Everyone present held their breath and prayed that it wasn't a serious issue for the star wideout. The Bengals had luck in their corner as Green just missed a few weeks of preseason with a knee strain and bruise.
Green got through the first official practice without any issues and those in attendance said he looked outstanding. In speaking with local media members afterward, Green admitted that he wasn't quite 100 percent when Week One rolled around last season.
AJ said because he missed camp last year he didn't have his legs under him until week 6.— Joe Danneman (@FOX19Joe) July 24, 2014
Most of the team's true conditioning takes place during Training Camp, and though Green has never had a conditioning issue, there is a thing called "football shape". Players talk about it often, mostly referring to "game speed" with the sprinting and cutting that emulates in game scenarios. With Green missing almost all of last year's Training Camp because of injury and the team being uber-cautious, he feels it may have affected him.
The stat sheet shows as much, too. Though he had a good game in Week One against the Bears with nine catches for 162 yards and two touchdowns, he also had a costly drop that turned the tide of that game. He didn't crack more than eight catches or 62 yards receiving the subsequent four weeks. The Bengals went 3-2 in the games where Green admitted that he wasn't quite ready.
From Weeks Six to 10, Green had five consecutive 100-plus-yard receiving performances and three touchdowns. The team also went 3-2 during this stretch as well. Obviously, with so many key guys on the PUP List to start the 2014 season, keeping Green healthy and well-conditioned will be key--especially with a crucial Week One divisional matchup against the Baltimore Ravens.