The first day of Cincinnati Bengals training camp was supposed to be a light practice and an opportunity to interact with the local fanbase in Dayton as part of the NFL's 100th season celebration.
Watching one of the top players exit early on a cart made for a bitter ending to an otherwise special day.
Wide receiver A.J. Green suffered an ankle injury Saturday during the opening practice in front of 7,500 fans at Welcome Stadium, a venue chosen to recognize Dayton as one of the 13 original NFL cities. Green sustained the injury while trying to catch a pass from Andy Dalton as Dre Kirkpatrick stepped in front of him to break it up. The ninth-year veteran receiver immediately walked off limping and sat down to receive medical attention before eventually making his way – on his own power – to a cart and leaving the field.
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“We’ll let him get checked out,” Bengals head coach Zac Taylor said after practice. “I don’t think anything that’s happened today is anything that … you don’t want to assume anything, but I think that we’ll be OK.
Green underwent toe surgery on the other foot at the end of the 2018 season, missing seven games, and was limited throughout the offseason workout program as he worked his way back. He was full-go for practice Saturday and the injury occurred during one of the final team drills.
When asked whether the injury made it difficult to remain positive about the day, Taylor said he was just excited to see the team rally.
“You’re always going to face adversity whether it’s a two-day injury or whatever it is,” Taylor said. “You’re going to face adversity in this league it’s just how you respond to it. If you get down on every little thing that comes across your plate you’re going to have a lot of bad days. I’m encouraged about the guys that were out there today and know we’ll have a good team on the field come September.”
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The start of fall practices was encouraging in most other regards, as Tyler Eifert also worked into the mix for the first time since breaking his ankle in Week 4 last year. Taylor said the hour-long practice was productive and the team accomplished what he wanted.
The Bengals finished the day signing autographs for fans, though there was no sign of Green at that point.
“I think it was good to get in front of these fans,” Taylor said. “The Bengals fans here in the Dayton region is a big support base for us so it’s exciting to get out here and get a chance for these players to perform in front of them. It was good kind of easing our way back into it. We get an hours’ worth of work out here on this turf field. We’re excited to make these corrections and the key thing we said to the players after practice was we made a couple of mistakes today, but tomorrow we’ll have better urgency and just don’t make the same mistake twice. That’s all we’re asking.”
Taylor had spent time prior to Saturday studying up on the history of the NFL and the role Dayton played a century ago.
Dayton hosted the first ever NFL game Oct. 3, 1920, at Triangle Park, where the Dayton Triangles beat the Columbus Panhandles 14-0. The Triangles actually organized in 1913, coming together as a group of former St. Mary’s Institute (later renamed the University of Dayton) basketball players who began playing football after graduation.
The Bengals have practiced in Dayton before to connect with fans there but haven’t been back since training at West Carrolton High School in 2016.
“I’ve been studying a lot about the history of the NFL and with our first practice up here in Dayton, it’s cool,” Taylor said earlier this week. “It’s 100 years — 100 years ago this league started. The first game was up there between the Dayton Triangles and the Columbus Panhandles. That kind of led me down a rabbit hole of even more history before that. I learned about the first trade, the first free agent, the first professional team and how this whole thing came about. To have Mike (Brown as owner), someone who’s been around as long as anybody, teach you that information has really been a cool experience for me.”