A.J. Green's 'mind is at ease' entering sixth Bengals season

CINCINNATI -- A.J. Green was all smiles when he met with reporters at his youth camp just outside Cincinnati last week.

He had good reason to be.

Unlike last July, when a large chunk of a similar camp interview session revolved around his then-looming contract uncertainty, this time Green only needed to discuss what he was going to do to help the Cincinnati Bengals perform better once the 2016 season begins.

"Definitely my mind is at ease this year," Green said, grinning. "I don't have to worry about contracts or anything like that. I just go in there free, clear head, just go out there work and have fun. Training camp is fun to me. I just love getting back out there with the guys."

Green will be having that fun late next week when training camp officially starts for the Bengals July 29.

This has been a tamer offseason for Green, soon to be a first-time father. In fact, picking baby names (he and his wife, Miranda, have settled on Easton Ace Green) and gearing up for fatherhood have been among his most challenging tasks of the offseason. He hasn't been doing the same mental somersaults he did a year ago.

All last spring and nearly all last summer, the Pro Bowl wideout was constantly asked about his future. Entering what was to be his fifth-year option season, it wasn't clear what the long term held. Would he be with the Bengals in 2016? Would someone else snatch him up with a more attractive deal? Would he one day have to think about retiring somewhere other than Cincinnati? But those weren't his only concerns.

"My wife and I were just talking about how I can go in there and I don't have to worry about, 'Aw, dang, if I get hurt in training camp, what's going to happen?' I can just go out there and play," Green said. "Not saying I didn't play hard, but to have that in the back of your head -- that, 'What if I get hurt? What am I going to do with this contract?'"

Green no longer has to answer those questions because last Sept. 11, two days before the Bengals' 2015 opener at Oakland, he agreed to a four-year, $60 million extension. It should keep him in Bengals stripes through the 2019 season, and it might set up a later deal that could keep him in Cincinnati long after that.

"All is good," Green said.

The Bengals hope all will be good with their pass-catchers this season, too, as they bring a young group of receivers to training camp. Although he'll be joined by fellow veterans Brandon Tate and Brandon LaFell, Green is still the leader of a mostly inexperienced group. Well aware of that, he has started doing something he hadn't previously done much of earlier in his career: talking.

"I'm being more vocal, teaching guys," Green said. "Even between [practice] routes, I pull them to the side and tell them what we're looking for. What we need to do on this route. What's Urb [receivers coach James Urban] looking for? What's Andy [Dalton] looking for on this route, and what you've got to do? That's what I'm trying to do. Don't be that crazy, crazy, trying to change so much that I'm out of my comfort level, but being comfortable being uncomfortable is what I'm trying to be."