A.J. Green knows what it's like to be a high draft pick coming into the NFL under unique circumstances, and it's that experience that leads him to believe his Bengals have the right pieces in place.
It was in 2011, the year of the NFL lockout, that Cincinnati selected Green fourth overall. Fast forward a few months later and the Bengals, led by Green and fellow rookie Andy Dalton, compiled a 9-7 record and earned a spot in the AFC Wild Card Round.
While the challenges of the past few months are entirely different than those from nine years ago, players have faced similar setbacks in the form of a lack of OTAs and access to team facilities because of the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic. Still, Green believes the flurry of offseason moves, most notably the addition of No. 1 overall pick Joe Burrow, will translate into good things whenever the team does resume on-field activity.
"A lot of people play into the (narrative of) 'how long does it take to get clicking,'" he said on a conference call with reporters on Friday, per the Cincinnati Enquirer. "We're all football players doing this for a long time. (Dalton) and I came in in 2011 and we went 9-7, and we didn't have any kind of expectations.
"I feel like when you have the No. 1 pick, and what we did in free agency and me coming back, (Tyler Boyd) is coming back, John (Ross), Tee (Higgins) and all these pieces that we added on defense, I feel like the talent level that we have now is way different than what we had in 2011."
The 2011 Bengals featured a receiving corps of Green, Jerome Simpson, Andre Caldwell and tight end Jermaine Gresham; 1,000-yard rusher Cedric Benson anchored the backfield and the defense included cornerback Reggie Nelson, nose tackle Domata Peko and second-year standout defensive tackle Geno Atkins. Dalton, Green, Gresham and Atkins all made the Pro Bowl.
The 2020 Bengals, as Green mentioned, have a totally different makeup. The soon-to-be 32-year-old returns to a speedy WR room that includes a back-to-back 1,000-yard receiver in Boyd, a potential steal of a second-round pick in Clemson's Higgins and a motivated Ross who is due back from injury after playing eight games in 2019. Running back Joe Mixon stars in the backfield. The defense will feature the still-imposing Atkins -- now in Year 11 -- and free agent acquistions Mackensie Alexander, Vonn Bell, D.J. Reader, and Trae Waynes. And, of course, under center will be the aforementioned Burrow, the 2019 Heisman Trophy winner and star of the national champion LSU Tigers.
Burrow is one of several first rounders who have yet to sign but it's only a matter of time before the Bengals get him squared away for 2020 like they recently did with their top receiver. After missing all of last season, Green is eager to re-join the club and attempt to create magic with Burrow a la what he and Dalton did almost a decade ago.
"A lot of people don't want quarterbacks to be that fired up, but I feel like he's going to bring to us the same energy he brought to LSU," he said. "I know the type of player he is. I know he's a dog for a fact. I'm excited to play with him and I can't wait to get back out there."