Adriel Jeremiah Green, or as we know him, A.J., retired from the NFL on Monday in an Instagram post.
Green was selected by the Cincinnati Bengals with the fourth-overall pick in the 2011 NFL Draft. The Bengals were just forced to completely rebuild their roster after franchise quarterback Carson Palmer demanded a trade after the 2010 season, and the first player the Bengals chose to build the roster around was the talented University of Georgia wide receiver.
The second player selected was TCU quarterback Andy Dalton. The two would go on to lead the Bengals to unprecedented success at the time.
Green, who actually caught his first career touchdown pass from Bruce Gradkowski (for you trivia nuts), finished his career with 727 receptions for 10, 514 yards and 70 touchdowns (9,430 yards and 65 touchdowns with the Bengals) and is second in most major receiving categories in Bengals history behind Chad Johnson.
Here are a few things I’ll always remember most about A.J.
Got a wife and kids in Baltimore, Jack
A.J. Green had some great games, but some of his best seemed to always come against the Baltimore Ravens. In fact, after Green went off on the Ravens in one of their 2015 games with 10 catches for 227 yards and two touchdowns, Ravens coach John Harbaugh famously said that one day they’d figure out how to stop him.
“One of these days we’ll figure out how to cover A.J. Green,” he said. “It would be nice if we did that before he retires.”
It’s not often that one non-quarterback player lives in the mind of one of the longest-tenured coaches in the NFL.
Let my play do the talking
Owning the Bengals franchise records for receiving isn’t the only thing that made Chad Johnson famous. He was arguably better known for his talking, on and off the field, and his touchdown celebrations. The antics came to a head in 2010 when the Bengals paired Johnson, then known as Chad Ochocinco, with Terrell Owens. They finished that season with a 4-12 record and ended Johnson and Palmer’s tenure in Cincinnati. The trash-talking diva wide receiver act had worn out its welcome in the Queen City.
Enter Green, who let his play do all the talking. Green almost talked less in interviews than he did on the field (I interviewed him around 2013 and getting the guy to talk to you was like pulling teeth). The most you would see out of him when it came to a touchdown celebration was maybe pointing to his last name on the back of his jersey, but most of the time he just handed the ball to the referee and headed back to the sideline.
Like my Dad always said, “act like you’ve been there before.”
Being quiet didn’t mean he was going to be walked over
It was so out of character to see Green physically fight someone on the field, but he showed everybody that he wouldn’t be pushed around. As one of the most respected and feared wide receivers in the league when he was in his prime, cornerbacks didn’t often try to test him the way Jalen Ramsey did, but if they did, Green would put them in their place.
Whatever Green’s future holds, he’ll do great, of that I have no doubt. He made people respect the Bengals in a way they weren’t used to, and while he, Dalton and Marvin Lewis weren’t able to get over the playoff win hump, he’ll still go down in Cincinnati history as one of the greatest to ever wear stripes.
Enjoy retirement, A.J.
Here are some highlights.
Here are some random NFL thoughts as we prepare to watch the Super Bowl.
- While the new format for the Pro Bowl is better than the terrible game they used to play, I still couldn’t get into it.
- I loved seeing Ja’Marr Chase score and toss the ball to Tee Higgins.
- With a little over a week to digest the Bengals’ close AFC Championship loss, how do you feel about how the season ended?
- There’s not a lot to say about Joe Mixon. It’s important to say, as of right now, he has not been found guilty of anything, and I do believe in “innocent until proven guilty,” but this wasn’t a good look for Mixon. He was already possibly on the cap casualty cut list, and this won’t help.
- It’s a shame that Green’s only season with Joe Burrow at quarterback wasn’t more productive, but a new offensive system with Burrow’s injury meant that Green’s last season in Cincinnati would be one to forget.
- I’ve seen the question asked on Twitter: if you could pick one former Bengals player to be signed to the team for the upcoming season, and they’d be in their prime, who would you pick? It’s almost impossible to select anyone other than Anthony Muñoz.
- The Bengals will go into the offseason with the fourth most cap space in the NFL. Would you rather have the Bengals build a team the right way for sustained success, or would you rather do what the Rams did; sacrifice multiple years of success for one Super Bowl win?
- The Higgins trade talk is just conjecture. I don’t see the Bengals trading him before the 2023 season. They may not be able to re-sign him after that, but they won’t let a major piece of their recipe for post-season success go when they’re ready to win the franchise’s first Super Bowl.
- It’s mock draft season. What position do you hope the Bengals address in the first round?
Finally, I hope the Brown family and Green can come to an agreement on a one-day contract enabling him to retire as a member of the Cincinnati Bengals. Watching Green contort his body and high point a desperate pass from Dalton and barely keep his toes in the field of play will always be burned into my fondest memories as a Bengals fan.
A.J., I hope you find happiness and fulfillment in retirement, and it was an absolute pleasure and privilege to watch you dominate defensive backs while in stripes.