Finley ‘confident’ heading into NFL debut; Green’s availability up in the air

Cincinnati Bengals head coach Zac Taylor was expecting A.J. Green to play Sunday against Baltimore, but less than a half hour after announcing such in his mid-week press conference, he found out Green wasn’t feeling great following the team’s morning walk-through and needed some treatment.

Green didn’t practice Wednesday and Taylor now says he is “day-to-day.”

The Bengals were hoping to have Green on the field for the first time this season when rookie quarterback Ryan Finley makes his NFL debut as Andy Dalton’s replacement. Taylor benched Dalton after an 0-8 start and said the team is ready to see what Finley can provide.

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Ideally, the team’s best receiver would be there to give Finley a reliable target and perhaps open up the other players a little more. Green has been working back from an ankle injury suffered on the first day of training camp, but Taylor doesn’t know how Wednesday’s perceived setback will impact Green’s availability Sunday.

“We felt good about the progress he was making, so that’s why I said what I said (during the press conference), and then it didn’t feel like we could practice (him) today, so we’ll get through the night and see where it’s at tomorrow,” Taylor said. “I literally learned right before we walked out on the field. I don’t know what it does (for Sunday). We’ll just kind of take it day by day.”

Taylor said the team has confidence in Finley regardless of expectations for Green, who is in the last year of his contract.

Finley, a fourth-round draft pick, overcame a rough transition during the team’s offseason workout program and was impressive through three preseason appearances, completing 73.4 percent (47-of-64) of his passes for three touchdowns and one interception.

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“He’s got a great feel, and that comes from all his game experience he’s had over the course of his college career and he’s had some great coaches in his past,” Taylor said. “That’s all stuff that factors into that we think he’s ready to play and we’ll see what he can do on Sunday.”

Finley said this week has been “a little more of a time commitment just getting prepared” but he’s enjoyed the process. His girlfriend has been handling all the ticket requests – she and him both have family and friends wanting to come Sunday to see his first start.

Most importantly the bye was “huge” for Finley to mentally prepare, but he stepped to the podium for his first press conference Wednesday looking confident, and his message in interviews this week has been that he’s ready to lead.

“Obviously it’s a lot different (being in the spotlight), but I think I’m ready for it,” Finley said. “I’m confident in my ability to play, I’m confident in this team’s ability to bounce back and get some wins. So it’s fun for me. It’s definitely new for me but I’ve got a lot of support around me.”

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Finley also was expecting Green to be among his supporting cast and said that would be “about as big as it could possibly be” for him to have that kind of weapon.

“We all know what A.J. can do and getting him back opens up a tremendous amount of things we can do,” Finley said Wednesday in his first press conference as starting quarterback. “Just having his presence in there in practice is huge. He’s a gamer, he’s a baller and to be able to throw to him and give him a chance to make plays and do what he’s done throughout his whole career is huge.”

Bengals center Trey Hopkins said no one feels like Finley needs a certain kind of help to be successful, though. Hopkins was Finley’s center through much of training camp and the preseason while both were working with the second-team offense at the time.

“Ryan is in that position because he’s obviously done things that have given people around here confidence in him, so it’s not like anybody is standing here feeling like we really have to coddle this quarterback,” Hopkins said. “He’s a talented guy and we expect him to do great things, but at the same time, we know we don’t need to be an extra stressor. We want to lift him up and encourage him and make sure we’re playing our best ball to make things easier for him.”

Hopkins is excited for Finley to get an opportunity and to see what he does with the offense.

“I was his center during the preseason, and I know what he does, I know the excitement he brings to the huddle and the kind of passion he plays with so it will be fun to see him put that on the stage where it matters,” Hopkins said. “He’s fun. He’s exciting, lively. He’s a young guy, and you see that spark in his eyes like college days where it’s playing with your boys, and that’s how he approaches it.”


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