- Coley Harvey, ESPN Staff Writer
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CINCINNATI -- Good for A.J. Green.
Kudos to him for beginning to heed the advice that was offered to him in January.
At long last, Green has started implementing an attitude worthy of a player of his lofty stature. He's embracing his role as a vocal team leader and has started opening his mouth in ways the Bengals had long been anticipating.
Based on comments he made during his youth football camp in suburban Cincinnati on Thursday, Green has emerged from his shell. He's asserted his support for quarterback Andy Dalton this offseason more adamantly than he has in years past and he's emphasized that the entire team needs to play better in the postseason, sending loud messages not only to his teammates, but to those of us looking from the outside in.
It's about time.
"If you're a great athlete, I feel like you'll think you always left something [on the table]," Green said. "I feel like I still haven't reached my peak yet."
He knows the Bengals haven't, either.
Part of what Bengals coaches think will get him dramatically closer to his personal summit is him being more vocal.
After the Bengals lost their wild-card playoff game to the Chargers, Green met with head coach Marvin Lewis and then-offensive coordinator Jay Gruden as part of the standard exit meetings. The general theme in the conversations was that Green needed to be louder and more assertive on the sidelines and in the huddles.
They wanted him to lead with his voice. If his teammates needed to be called out, he needed to be the one to do it. If they needed to hear more praise, he had to be the one to provide it.
Green knew those requests would be a lot easier to make than to fulfill.
"That's a big thing for me, stepping out of my box," he said. "I'm not really a vocal guy in general. I let my play, my work, speak for itself. ... It's definitely an adjustment for me because I'm more of a quiet guy, more of a lead by example by what I do on and off the field guy. That's the biggest thing for me is that I've got to speak up when we're not having a good day or we're down or things like that."
While taking a break during the second day of his sold-out, two-day camp, Green told the few reporters listening that he felt his transition was going well.
It certainly appears he's right.
Just look at a few of his comments from the interview session. He was unflinching in his critique of his own postseason play. Asked to characterize his three career playoff games, two words immediately came out of his mouth: "Not good."
Had he been asked that question in the past, he may have ultimately meandered to same answer, but only after giving a stock answer about just simply needing to execute better. This time around, not only did he put pressure on himself to perform better, but he prodded all his teammates to step up their postseason games. He said Thursday that Cincinnati's recent postseason woes weren't only the result of poor performances by he and Dalton, but he challenged the defense to play better, as well.
That's what a vocal leader does. He doesn't just challenge himself, he pushes those around him.
That's also what an 0-3 postseason showing gets you: a frustrated superstar who's eager to prove his worth.
What also makes Green's comments interesting was the manner in which they were delivered. There was no hesitancy in his voice, no uncertainty about whether he was saying the right things or not. Let's just say that he sounded more sure of himself when answering these questions than he did last year.
So where has this new vocal and assertive Green come from? He doesn't have a complete answer. He probably doesn't really need one.
It's safe to say that new offensive coordinator Hue Jackson has had something to do with it. Known for a confidence that some might say borders on arrogance, Jackson has a personality that may be rubbing off on Gree. Like Lewis and Gruden, Jackson believed Green, as one of the team's elite players, needed to make his presence known a little better in the locker room.
"He's never satisfied with where I am," Green said of Jackson. "That's one thing about him. No matter what I do or what I've accomplished these first three years, there's always more I can do.
"I remember when the [NFL Network's] top 100 came out and I was the No. 2 receiver, he said, 'OK, let's go be No. 1.'"
Deep down Green may have previously believed he could be the best in the league. But now, based on the comments he made Thursday, it seems he actually believes it, and is doing more to prove it.
Listen up, NFL. A.J. is talking. But will the chatter be enough to help reverse his team's postseason fortunes and to make him even more respected than he already is?
Time will tell.
2dOhm Youngmisuk and Rich Cimini