Cincinnati Bengals wide receiver A.J. Green isn’t worried about a delayed start to working with new quarterback Joe Burrow.
While the COVID-19 pandemic wiped out chances of working together this offseason, Green experienced similar circumstances after the Bengals drafted him fourth overall in 2011. A lockout during that time meant he and second-round pick Andy Dalton didn’t get Organized Team Activities to settle in together, but they still went on to a 9-7 regular-season and playoff appearance.
Green says that experience applies now as Burrow, the No. 1 overall draft pick, and the other rookies prepare to report to Cincinnati today before veterans report by July 28.
“Just go out there and have fun,” Green said. “When Andy and I got drafted in 2011 we didn’t have OTAs. We went straight into training camp like we’re doing now. Everything I’m hearing about Joe, he’s a smart guy. I feel like he can handle all the situations. He’s played at the biggest level. For him, (it’s important) to just go out there and play his game and me being in the right spots at all time for him.”
Burrow’s status as the No. 1 overall draft pick isn’t what excites Green about playing with the former LSU quarterback and Heisman Trophy winner. Green is more excited about the energy Burrow brings to the field and the meeting rooms – something he could feel through the TV screen while watching the national championship. The 10th-year veteran has little doubt Burrow will be able to fire up his new teammates the same way he did at LSU.
The Bengals also have better positioned Burrow to be successful, Green said.
“I think a lot of people just play into the ‘how long is it going to take to get clicking?’ and stuff like that,” Green said. “I think we’re all football players. We’ve been doing this a long time. (Bengals.com writer Geoff) Hobson was talking about how Andy and I came in in 2011 and we went 9-7. We didn’t have any kind of expectations, but I feel like when you have the No. 1 pick and what we did in free agency and me coming back, TB’s (Tyler Boyd) coming back, John (Ross), Tee (Higgins) and all these pieces that we added on defense … I feel like the talent level that we have now is way different than we had in 2011 — our defense was great, but I feel like our offense matches our defense right now.”
Despite posting on social media about potential plans to get together this offseason, Burrow and Green have not yet met in person yet. However, they have texted a couple times during the offseason and they were on a regular group chat together, along with all the other receivers.
Green was flattered to hear Burrow saying at the NFL Combine in February how he wanted to play with Green and hoped he would be with the team still.
“It felt good, having a young guy coming in and watching about (how) he needs an old me to help the team out,” Green said. “It was a great pleasure to have him say that. I know the type of player he is and I know he’s a dog. I know he’s a dog for a fact. So I’m excited to play with him. I’m just can’t wait to get out there.”
But, Burrow wasn’t the only one making those kinds of comments. Higgins, the team’s second-round draft pick, idolized Green as a young player and talked after the draft about how he couldn’t wait to just be in the same room with his favorite wide receiver.
Green said he was aware of Higgins’ fandom and has spoken to him about it.
“Tee is a great guy,” Green said. “We have some mutual friends. We’re in the same circle. I know Tee. I talked to Tee a couple times. I know that he is gonna be ready to work and push everyone and push me and push each other to be better.”
Green hopes to be a sounding board for Higgins like Chad Johnson could have been for him before Johnson was traded in 2011. He always has tried to help bring along the other young receivers as they’ve come in, and he expects nothing different with Higgins.
If anything, Higgins brings an added level of enthusiasm for learning from Green.
“That’s my biggest thing coming in,” Green said. “I had Mo (Sanu) and Marv (Jones) come in right after me. Now I have TB (Tyler Boyd). Watching those guys develop and asking questions, I feel like Tee is going to be the same way. He’s a guy that’s willing to work. He’s a quiet guy. He’s really going to help us a lot this year.”
There’s plenty of potential for the entire Bengals’ receiving corps this year, if everyone can stay healthy. ProFootballFocus.com ranked the group 10th among all wide receiver units entering the 2020 season.
“I get excited just thinking about it,” Green said. “I just talked to T.B. (Tyler Boyd) a couple of minutes ago. When John (Ross), Tee (Higgins), T.B., A.E. (Alex Erickson), (Auden) Tate — man, that whole receiving corps — it’s going to be fun. It’s going to be fun, man. We’re going to definitely push each other to be better. That’s really going to help our success as a team.”