A.J. Green should be getting set to play in his final game of the 2016 NFL season.
Instead, the All-Pro receiver is being held out for a reason he seems to disagree with. Green suffered a partially torn grade 2 hamstring injury, which he was hoping had healed enough to allow him to play in Houston last week. But, on the morning of the game, Green was told by the team that he would not play. Immediately, he left Houston and went home to spend Christmas Eve with his wife and three-month-old son.
ESPN’s Bob Holtzman reported that Green was pulled from a team meeting in Houston, told he wouldn't be allowed to play and that the decision was made by ownership, not the coaches. The medical staff reportedly helped the Bengals’ ownership come to this decision.
This occurred after Green had been adamant he was ready to play against the Texans, a game Cincinnati would have been much more likely to win with Green on the field. Instead, the Bengals lost 12-10, and Green isn’t happy that he wasn’t able to help his team notch their sixth win of the season.
Now, Holtzman reports that Green hasn’t even been around the team this week.
WR A.J. Green hasn't been around much this week. One player told me he hasn't seen Green in a single meeting since the wide receiver left Houston on Saturday. I'm told that's rare, even for an injured player.
It sounds like Green is really angered by this controversy, which was clearly mishandled by the Bengals’ coaches, medical staff and ownership. If the Bengals weren’t going to let Green play, that decision should have been made prior to the team plane leaving for Houston, one day prior to Christmas Eve. The other players who were injured last week didn’t make the trip to Houston.
Green is 36 yards away from joining Randy Moss as the only two NFL players to generate 1,000+ receiving yards in each of their first six NFL seasons. It appears he will not have the opportunity to hit that mark and make history.
I’ll defend Brown and his decision to sit Green for several reasons:
- This is a meaningless game in which Green, even at 80-percent health, should not be playing. Risking an injury in a game that’s essentially as important as a pre-season game is not necessary, especially when you’re already injured and that injury is not 100% healed. Green admitted he knew his injury would not be 100% healed this season.
- Green reportedly has a torn hamstring tendon, in addition to the partial hamstring tear. That’s not something he needs to risk injuring further unless it’s a playoff game, and even then it would be iffy. If this injury worsens, what can happen becomes far-too-scary.
- The Bengals just went through an offseason marred by Tyler Eifert’s ankle injury in the Pro Bowl, which eventually led to surgery and helped knock him out for the first six games of 2016, a stretch of games during which the Bengals went 2-4. He doesn’t want something similar to happen to Green in a game that has about as much relevance as the Pro Bowl. Per the team, there would be an “inordinate risk” should Green play again this season before his hamstring is fully healed. No one wants to see Green further injured, especially in a meaningless Week 17 game with more to gain from a loss than a win.
Brown wants a better draft pick and a win on Sunday could be the difference between the No. 7 pick and the No. 1 1 pick.
Regardless of everything else, there’s no question that it’s really unfortunate Green is going to miss out on that receiving record by such a slim margin. That said, this sport isn’t about stats and records. It’s about wins and losses, and wins are something the Bengals didn’t get enough of this year, thanks in part to untimely injuries. Injuries in the NFL are inevitable but the Brown family and Bengals fan don’t want to see Green further injured or have a season full or rehabbing.
Above all else, the Bengals should make sure Green isn’t actually upset with the team heading into the offseason. He is the franchise (or at least a big part of it) and having your star player upset with your organization would be a huge issue for the long run. The Bengals ownership and coaches should be doing everything necessary to ensure Green is on the same page as they are and that he’s content heading into the offseason.