It's almost unconscionable, if not inconceivable, that Bengals wide receiver A.J. Green could feel "left behind". Universally praised as Cincinnati's best player, most talented athlete and critical to everything the Bengals do offensively, Green almost feels neglected as NFL talking heads focused on other receivers around the league. It's even understandable: Offseason storylines were infatuated with the contract status of Dez Bryant and Demaryius Thomas and Green, who struggled with injuries and (as a result), produced smaller numbers.
He wants to snap his fingers, drawing the inattentive league observer to remember, he's still kind of good.
"I'm itching to get back this season," Green said on Friday. "I feel like the football world forgot about me. That's the way I approached it the whole offseason." It's an odd statement, to be sure. Granted, this statement doesn't counter Green's anti-diva persona, compared to his contemporaries around the league. It's just different to read/hear Green approaching a question, reflecting on himself as such. Yet, it's not like the question is written into the story, providing context.
"Still, he led the NFL in yards per route run, according to Pro Football Focus and still managed to lead the Bengals with 69 receptions for 1,041 yards," writes Paul Dehner Jr with the Cincinnati Enquirer. "His 224 yards in home loss to Pittsburgh ranked second in Bengals history."
Green, after dealing with a concussion and turf toe last season, is finally healthy. Two sessions into training camp and his stride is effortless, like before, showing no lingering issues with the toe. Every pass targeting him has been caught without much complication; though Adam Jones has challenged an unsuspecting Green, even one leading to an interception.
"Pac was all over that route,' Bengals defensive coordinator Paul Guenther said. Jones' assignment was to cover Green on a "dig," route, a deep ball over the middle that Green can come back on. Jones read it and jumped in front of it.
"I don't know if he over threw it or what, but I got up and under it," Jones said. "It was a good call and everyone was in good position."
Though, it's somewhat refreshing to see a motivated Green expressing himself with such determination and motivation.
One observer "who has seen all six workouts believes Green is having the best spring of his career," Geoff wrote regarding Green's work during OTAs, adding that "last year’s nagging injuries (inflamed big toe, bicep bruise, concussion) are well past him."
Green had his most frustrating season in 2014, missing four games (three regular season games and the team's wild card game), and parts of two others, with turf toe and a concussion. Yet, despite the injuries and time missed, Green secured a spot on the 2015 Pro Bowl team and during the course of the season had 69 receptions, 1,041 yards receiving and six touchdowns.
There is still a contract to consider. Green, who had his four-year rookie deal extended to a fifth season last year, will become a free agent this March. If the team applies the franchise tag, it could cost well north of $14 million. Some observers believe Green could command more than what Bryant and Thomas signed with one significant roadblock -- guaranteed money. Despite the unlikeliness Cincinnati would release Green, allowing him to earn the entirety of whatever contract he signs, the Bengals aren't big with guaranteed contracts. Where guaranteed money benefits Green is the possibility of injuries.
Yet, no one is really worried about it.