A.J. Green Always Ready to Put in Time—at Work or Play

Michael SchotteyNFL National Lead WriterOctober 9, 2013

Cincinnati Bengals wide receiver A.J. Green is not only one of the top targeted receivers in the game, but he's also a self-proclaimed Call of Duty aficionado. 

The former first-round draft pick was kind enough to have a quick chat with me about the season so far, and was sure not leave out any Call of Duty skill comparisons relative to his teammates.

For the Bengals, however, it may not be the best time to focus on off-the-field activities, as the team is 3-2 and struggling on the offensive side of the ball. After investing so much offensively in the offseason, these struggles weren't exactly expected.

Bengals QB Andy Dalton has thrown more INTs (4) than TDs to Green (4).
Bengals QB Andy Dalton has thrown more INTs (4) than TDs to Green (4).Jason Miller/Getty Images

Green, now in his third season, has accumulated 361 receiving yards through five weeks of the 2013 season. That's good for only 21st overall in the NFL, behind receivers like the Pittsburgh Steelers' Antonio Brown, Jacksonville Jaguars' Cecil Shorts and Tennessee Titans' Nate Washington

Luckily for Cincinnati, Green is a consummate professional and puts in just as much time on the field as he does with a controller in his hand. He's also confident that this team is ready to take "the next step."

"We expected to win more, being older," Green said. "We expected to take that next step—winning a playoff game. We're just focused on taking that next step. It's not like we've lost a bunch of games; we're 3-2. We have to get to the playoffs and then win that game."

It's a singular focus for Green. This is nothing new, however, as his spare-time activity is more of a singular focus as well. You could say he has a one-track (or rather, one-disk) mind. When asked how much time he spends playing Call of Duty, Green told me he plays "...three to four hours, then I'll take a break and maybe come back later."

With so much dedication to game, one would think Green is an expert. But he laughed off a question about his skill, saying that Bengals tight end Jermaine Gresham is actually the best teammate when it comes to Call of Duty, and that lots of Bengals are more adept than him. 

"I started playing in college because all of my friends played. I didn't play the first couple online, but now I'm into it...I'm a tough guy. I may die a lot, but I'm also going to get a lot of kills."

CLEVELAND, OH - SEPTEMBER 29:  Wide receiver A.J. Green #18 of the Cincinnati Bengals is tackled by defensive backs T.J. Ward #43 and Joe Haden #23 of the Cleveland Browns at FirstEnergy Stadium on September 29, 2013 in Cleveland, Ohio.  (Photo by Matt Su
Matt Sullivan/Getty Images

That same level of self-examination and lack of hubris applies to his game as well. He also laughed off a question on whether he's the best receiver in the league: "I'll let you guys decide that one for me," he said. 

"There's always something—especially after a loss—that you look back and think you could've done better, whether it's running routes or getting some extra yards after a catch."

He's also willing to point out some of the talented cornerbacks he's faced, listing divisional rivals like Joe Haden of the Cleveland Browns, Ike Taylor of the Pittsburgh Steelers and non-divisional opponent Charles "Peanut" Tillman of the Chicago Bears

As for the Bengals, as a whole, Green just believes that a little more consistency and a few less turnovers will make all the difference in the world. 

Of course, anyone with that kind of work ethic and ability to point out his own flaws can hardly be labeled a "diva." Green has avoided that label that so many receivers acquire, and Green believes it's just who he is—humble. 

Green picked up some of that character and attitude back in Summerville, S.C., where he played for legendary Summerville High School coach John McKissick. McKissick has spent his entire career as Summerville's head coach, a job he took in 1952. He's won over 600 games and is still going strong at 87 years old. 

"He's a legend in South Carolina," Green noted. "He's just won so many games...he's active, he's always coaching. He'd come over and tell me, 'do this' or 'do that.' At his age, it's just amazing."

Always focused, always working, Green isn't worried about any of the Bengals' offensive missteps early on in 2013. "I'm not frustrated. It's still early. There's a lot of season left. We just have to get over the hump and win that playoff game."

Singularly focused, always on the goal—on and off the field. 

 

Michael Schottey is the NFL National Lead Writer for Bleacher Report and a member of the Pro Football Writers of America. Find more of his stuff at The Go Route and follow him on Twitter

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