After being the guy in Cincinnati for a decade, A.J. Green is headed west to be a secondary option -- and he couldn't be more excited about the opportunity.
Green signed a one-year deal with the Arizona Cardinals this week, leaving the team with which he'd spent his entire career for a fresh start elsewhere. It was an outcome many had seen in Green's future for some time, dating back to well before the 2019 season began, and it offers Green a chance to find new life in the desert.
"I've been in Cincinnati for 10 years, so that's all I know. Coming to Arizona is refreshing," Green said Thursday during his introductory press conference. "You saw what Tom Brady did last year. I think it's good. Especially, like you said, coming to Arizona with the weather, grass, indoor, I'm excited. Just looking forward to getting into this offense, getting to work, just getting back to playing football. I don't feel like I have anything to prove. I've played this game at a high level for a long time. For me, I just want to go out there and play football and have fun again."
It's no secret that playing for the Bengals in recent years hasn't exactly been fun, especially prior to 2020, when things were clearly headed toward a rebuild that would center on a future franchise quarterback. That signal-caller ended up being Joe Burrow, who showed tremendous promise in his first season before it was cut short by injury.
Green knows all too well about having his availability taken from him by injury. The soft-spoken Green put extra emphasis on "grass" on Thursday, which called back to his recent injury issues in Cincinnati, where he'd suffered a serious ankle injury in training camp on the artificial turf field at Welcome Stadium during a special practice in nearby Dayton, Ohio. That injury cost him all of 2019, and came after he'd been limited to nine games in 2018 by a toe injury suffered on the turf surface at the Bengals' home of Paul Brown Stadium.
Finally healthy in 2020, Green returned amid new adversity -- an ongoing pandemic -- which robbed him of necessary time to establish a rapport with Burrow. Once Burrow was lost for the season, Green was forced to catch passes from Brandon Allen and Ryan Finley, bringing a disappointing end to his storied career in Cincinnati.
Now that he's joining a Cardinals team quarterbacked by an exciting, young passer in Kyler Murray, Green sees his new situation as an ideal fit for him, especially because of the presence of his new teammate, DeAndre Hopkins.
"I think that's going to take a lot off me because what he's done in this league forever, the caliber of player he is," Green said of Hopkins. "For me to be on the other side of that, I'm going to get a lot of one-on-ones and I'm very excited about that. Ten years playing in an offense where you are the vocal point to take away every week, coming to this offense where you have all these other guys and all these playmakers on the field with you, it's going to make my job a lot easier."
Arizona's receiving corps also includes Christian Kirk and speedster Andy Isabella, and might even welcome Larry Fitzgerald back into the fold for another campaign, provided the future Hall of Famer decides he still wants to play. If he does, the Cardinals very well could have three future Canton enshrinees in their lineup, and though Green is on the other side of 30, he believes he's far from finished.
"I feel like I have a lot left in the tank. I still feel young," Green said. "Legs feel young. Last year was a difficult year for me playing with these different quarterbacks, coming off an injury, but I wouldn't change that for anything in the world. I think that made me a better person on the field, mentally stronger, but I feel like I've got a lot more years left in me playing at a high level as well."
Green will get his chance to prove that this fall. We'll learn then what that means about the potential of the reloaded Cardinals.