Cardinals WR A.J. Green excited to be entering unfamiliar territory in 2021
GLENDALE — First-year Arizona Cardinal A.J. Green has been a No. 1 receiving option since he entered the NFL in 2011.
But unlike the past decade in Cincinnati, Green is entering the brunt of training camp knowing full well teammate DeAndre Hopkins figures to lead Arizona’s receiving corps in 2021.
While this sort of situation might impact players’ egos in other camps, it’s no skin off Green’s back, who is more concerned with wins and championships than personal stats.
“I’m always team first. When I was the guy in Cincinnati for 10 years I always wanted another guy,” Green said Thursday. “I had Tyler Boyd, we had [Marvin] Jones. We had some great guys. My thing is, I don’t want to be forced the ball and here I don’t have to be forced the ball.
“I don’t think [I’ve never not been the No. 1 option]. It’s been a while, but I’m excited for my opportunity,” Green added. “I know what I still got left in the tank and I still love the game. I’m excited.”
Green’s arrival to Arizona brings about a fresh start that appeared very much needed following two uncharacteristic seasons for the wideout.
Green recorded less than 695 yards and 48 receptions in 2018 and 2020 (career lows), missing all of 2019 with an ankle injury. But although the downturn in play can be blamed throughout the organization and on injuries to himself and his teammates, the wide receiver isn’t one to point fingers at anyone outside of himself. He’s taking the good with the bad.
“For me it was tough. I think last year was the most challenging year in my career,” Green said. “I wouldn’t change what I went through last year for nothing. I think it built my character even higher, even though I had great character. I think it pushed me even more to get through it mentally.
“The last like two or three years was like a roller coaster. I think if you’re pushing for greatness, you’re gonna have those ups and downs to where you can battle through adversity and come out on top. That’s what makes the great ones great.”
Now in the desert, Green is feeling right at home in head coach Kliff Kingsbury’s offense, even going as far as saying it reminds him of his early NFL years, a time when the wide receiver cemented his name as a legit receiving threat.
Under then-offensive coordinator Jay Gruden (2011-13), Green amassed 3,833 yards and 29 touchdowns in their three seasons together. That included a career-high 1,426 yards and 11 scores in 2013.
For Green, it’s back to his bread and butter in Kingsbury’s offense, something he said was missing the final two seasons in Cincinnati.
His new head coach has already taken notice of what Green can bring to a Cardinals’ receiving corps that’s looking to take a step forward after an inconsistent 2020 outside of Hopkins.
“Just being around him and watching him, I think he’s primed for a big season just based on he’s one of the more talented receivers in the league,” Kingsbury said.
“When you look at his size, his speed, his catch radius, it’s impressive. If he’s drawing the second DB and not getting the double team that he’s faced his entire career I think he’s got a real opportunity to make a lot of plays.”
– Green on his conversations with free agent Larry Fitzgerald:
“We talk about golf, that’s about it. Strictly golf. … We just keep it golf courses.”
– Green on those critical of his age:
“They said LeBron was done 10 years ago, they said Chris Paul was done 10 years ago — he was an MVP candidate. … It’s whatever. We play this game at a high level, we train at a high level. We know what we are capable of. … I feel like I got a lot left. … When you train old you become old, so I’m gonna continue to train young.”