A.J. Green eases back into team drills, eager to learn new offense

Cincinnati Bengals coach Zac Taylor said he didn’t need to see A.J. Green doing team drills to know what the seven-time Pro Bowl receiver could contribute to his new offense.

But the sight of Green catching passes from Andy Dalton was a welcome change around Paul Brown Stadium as the Bengals completed their first two days of mandatory minicamp Tuesday and Wednesday.

Green had been limited to side work during the first eight weeks of the team’s offseason workout program, despite being fully recovered from December toe surgery. This week is the first time the Bengals have allowed him to participate in individual drills with the rest of the team, though he didn’t do anything involving a matchup with the defense Tuesday or Wednesday, simply because Taylor didn’t want to push Green too hard.

“I know what to expect from A.J., so it [is] good just to see him catch balls from the quarterbacks,” Taylor said. “But we're not going to give him too much work."

Green missed nearly half of last season with a torn ligament in his right big toe and finished with a career-low 46 catches for 694 yards and six touchdowns. He has been present throughout the Bengals’ offseason workout program, but up until this week, he had been running routes with Nick Cosgray, director of rehabilitation, serving as his quarterback.

Tuesday and Wednesday were the first days he got to work with Dalton during a team practice, and that was about as much as the Bengals wanted to see.

“I've been doing this a long time, so Zac pretty much knows what I can do,” Green said Wednesday before practice. “That's great not to rush me back. I would love to be out there [doing everything], but I respect the decision. It felt good just to get out there.”

Green reported no soreness after the first day and said he will be ready for the start of training camp.

The biggest concern for him right now is getting his timing down with Dalton and understanding the new offense, which Taylor adapted from his time with the Los Angeles Rams in 2017 and 2018. Brian Callahan is Cincinnati’s third offensive coordinator in the past three years.

“We have a couple different routes I haven't run before, so training camp is going to be big for me just to get out there, everything is live with the defense going, so it will be good,” Green said.

Although Green hasn't been able to fully participate, Dalton believes their eight seasons together will compensate for the missed time.

"I understand how A.J. runs routes," Dalton said. "There's obviously going to be some new stuff that we're doing now, but it's easier with guys like that. It's easier with guys I've thrown to, and I know how they work."

Green said he will learn more about the offense when he’s lining up against a defense, but he has a good feel for the playbook from the studying he has done on his own and in meetings. He also has picked up things by watching practices, but that has been a bit frustrating at times too.

“[I was] just sitting in meetings, watching practice, so I couldn't hear the defense talking crap when they make plays,” Green said. “I just missed stuff like that, just being out with my brothers and being able to contribute to the team and just have fun.”