For A.J. Green, it’s not about the money or chance to win individual awards at this stage in his career. He’s received much of both already.
Entering Year 12, it’s about playing for a team suited to make a Super Bowl run this season, the only thing missing from his Hall of Fame resume.
That’s why Green re-signed with the Cardinals this offseason instead of leaving for another franchise, alongside the opportunity to stay in coach Kliff Kingsbury’s offense after playing out his one-year contract in 2021.
“I’m just trying to win,” Green said Monday after practice. “Just the familiarity of being in the same system was a big thing for me. So I thought the best fit was here.”
After making the postseason the first five years of his Pro Bowl career with the Bengals, Green hasn’t returned since 2015.
“Coming into the league at 21, 22 years old and going to the playoffs every year, I took it for granted,” Green said. “But sometimes you play the cards you’re dealt. I’m blessed to play this game at a high level for so long, but (now) I’m just trying to win.”
Wide receivers coach Shawn Jefferson praised Green for how the veteran receiver has looked in training camp.
“He just turned 34 and he’s playing like he’s 25,” Jefferson said. “He’s got really good genetics. He had a good foundation when he got to the league: footwork, understanding coverage, understanding DBs leverage, and how to use it against him. Now with Mother Nature catching up to him, he’s kept himself in shape and uses the fundamentals to be a constant contributor.”
Besides doing Pilates, Green said he keeps himself on a healthy diet and doesn’t do too much outside of football. His joy is spending time with his wife and two kids, and the fact he doesn’t drink only helps.
Things didn’t start as smooth for Green last year, beginning from his time in training camp. He was used to the traditional-style offense he spent in Cincinnati for nine seasons, but Kingsbury’s offense required a more up-tempo and no-huddle base.
Green had a solid year, registering 848 receiving yards on 54 receptions and three touchdowns in 16 games. But his play tailed off and he seemed out of sync at times with quarterback Kyler Murray. Green had a 58.7 reception percentage, the lowest on a team for a wide receiver.
Green said earlier in the offseason he and Murray needed to communicate better, and thus far, it seems to have worked.
“(It happened) just by talking and becoming more comfortable with each other,” Green said. “I think that came with time and just being here another year.”
The Cardinals have a talented wideouts corps in DeAndre Hopkins, Marquise “Hollywood” Brown, Rondale Moore, and Green.
Hopkins is suspended the first six games of the season, but Green thinks the Cardinals will be in a better place than when Hopkins missed time in-season last year with hamstring and knee injuries.
“When you’ve got ’10’ out there, it’s a different animal,” Green said. “But we’re going through a whole camp. Last year, it was just ‘Oh, he’s out’ and we didn’t really have time to prepare for that. Now I think other guys like Antoine ‘Tweezy’ Wesley can get more reps, so they aren’t thrown into the fire.”