Early this morning, NFL Network reporter Ian Rapoport, shared that the Bengals were not as confident about Green’s chances of playing in Houston after it initially looked like he was good to go.
#Bengals WR AJ Green (hamstring) was adamant that he’s playing today. Now CIN isn’t so sure they can count on it. They may hold him out.— Ian Rapoport (@RapSheet) December 24, 2016
Now, that narrative has gotten stronger and it seems the Bengals are holding Green out for the final two games of the season, according to ESPN reporter Bob Holtzman, who adds that Green is not happy with the decision.
A team source told me Green was pulled from a team meeting and told he wouldn't be allowed to play. I'm told the decision was made by ownership and that Green was not happy. Sources tell me Green never returned to the meeting and that he may be flying home on his own today.
Green, who has been adamant he’s ready to play this week, is listed as questionable on the final injury report. He probably wouldn’t get a full workload if he is active tonight, but now it looks like he may not play a single snap. Tyler Eifert was already ruled out for tonight’s game in Houston, but there are reports that he, too won’t play in Week 17 against the Ravens.
Green made the trip to Houston, on Christmas weekend, expecting to play. So it’s understandable that he’d be quite angry regarding not playing. Though, it’s not a great look for the Bengals to have Green unhappy.
"I'm not the type of guy to try to just shut it down, just to bail on my team because we're not having the season we wanted to have," Green said Thursday regarding his expectation of playing. "That's like a cowardly move to me. If I'm healthy, I'm going to play. And I feel like I'm healthy."
Ignoring what Green has said this week, the Bengals’ history of how they handle injuries would suggest Green is sitting out this week. He missed three full games with the injury, and has gotten just one full practice in since Week 10.
But that came on Friday, the day before their matchup in Houston. That usually isn’t enough to signal to the Bengals that a player should return from injury and in a normal week, there wouldn’t even be an injury report for that type of day-before-the-game practice. That could have a lot of bearing on Green’s status for tonight, which is now unclear, but muddied at best.
The coaches tend to want even their best players to get at least one full practice in before allowing them to play, and one would think that’s even more true with their their franchise receiver in a game that has no real meaning.
Marvin Lewis and most, if not all of his staff are expected to be brought back next year, so it’s not like they need to win this game to secure their jobs. I would venture to guess owner Mike Brown is ‘encouraging’ the coaches to not play Green, and that the next two games have no real bearing on their status for 2017.
In other words, the Bengals should absolutely sit Green tonight since he’s not completely healthy and probably even next week. This decision also comes after Vontaze Burfict returned to last week’s game despite his concussion symptoms, so perhaps the Bengals are being more cautious this time around with an injured player.
If Green were to play tonight, he needs just 36 yards to join Randy Moss as the only two players in NFL history to start off their NFL career with six straight seasons with 1,000 receiving yards. There’s no doubt Green wants to catch that record, but there now is significant doubt regarding whether he’ll have a chance at doing so.
If Green ends up not playing in the final two games, his Week 11 hamstring injury against the Bills will have ended what started as his greatest season in Bengals stripes. That’s an unfortunate way to end your season, but, it is par for the course in the NFL.