All it took was a quick scan of the locker room to remind Cincinnati Bengals wide receiver A.J. Green that he’s been around longer than most of his teammates.
But it wasn’t until last weekend when the rookies arrived that things really sunk in for Green after seeing one face in particular.
“The crazy part is I had this guy who participated when I first had my camp in South Carolina. He won the MVP, and he was here,” Green said, referring to University of Kentucky running back Boom Williams.
Asked how that made him feel, Green said, ‘Old. Very old. I’m getting up there.”
The good news for Green is that that feeling hasn’t moved beyond his mind. Speaking with reporters for the first time since the voluntary offseason workout program began last month, Green says his body, and specifically the hamstring that ended his 2016 season after 10 games, feels great.
“I feel good. I feel bigger,” he said. “My hamstring feels great. I had no problem with that. I’m ready to go. I’m anxious to get back out there and try to have one of the better seasons of my career.”
›› RELATED: Bengals rookie injures dad on path to NFL
With 66 catches for 964 yards through nine games, Green was on pace for 117 receptions and 1,714 yards, both of which would have been career highs. He said he was 100 percent healthy the week leading up to the Christmas eve game in Houston, but the decision to shut him down with the Bengals out of the playoffs was out of his hands.
“I was ready to go,” he said. “I ran my fastest GPS time during the practice. Ran a big post down. So I was fine.”
But that disappointment is in the past, as are the Bengals careers of long-time leaders Andrew Whitworth and Domata Peko, who left in free agency. Green said he knows that means there is more responsibility on his shoulders to step into a role as a vocal leader.
›› RELATED: Young linebackers getting noticed at rookie camp
“The 2011 class is going to be the leaders around here,” he said, referring to himself, quarterback Andy Dalton and left guard Clint Boling.
“I feel like we’ve still got to be more vocal for some of the young guys,” he added. “I think we’re ready to step up. I feel like we’ll be great leaders.”
Green also said he feels the offense as a whole is going to make more noise with the addition of first-round wide receiver John Ross and second-round running back Joe Mixon.
“I’ve played with some fast guys, but not that fast,” Green said of Ross. “That’s a different kind of speed.
“With (Ross’) speed, he’s always going to keep everything honest,” Green said. “That’s really going to help us. For me, it keeps the defense honest. Can’t just lock on me.
“Having him on the field just creates a different dynamic that we didn’t have here the past couple of years with his speed,” Green added. “I feel like we’re definitely getting a lift. We had Marvin (Jones) and Mo (Sanu) when they were coming into their own and had Tyler Eifert healthy, I feel like our offense was at its best when we all were on the field together. I feel like we’re getting back to that.”
JOIN THE CONVERSATION: Like our Cincinnati Bengals News Now Facebook page
Green has always been cordial and willing to speak to reporters, but he usually keeps his answers, and the interview as a whole, short. Monday he backed up what he said about being more vocal by talking for more than 11 minutes.
When the subject turned to the controversial pick of Mixon, Green didn’t shy away from offering his thoughts, just as he said he won’t shy away from offering to help his new teammate in any manner possible.
“I’m a god-fearing guy, and I feel like everybody deserves a second chance,” Green said. “I don’t condone what he’s done. He can’t take that back. I know he would like to. I feel like the Christian man in me, with my faith, that’s the Christian way to do. I’m going to give the guy a chance.
“You don’t look upon somebody, you help them,” he continued. “I feel like bringing him into the locker room with Andy and I being the leaders of the offense will really help him.”