Wide receiver A.J. Green, offensive linemen Clint Boling and Cordy Glenn, safety Shawn Williams and defensive tackle Geno Atkins are among the quietest guys in the Bengals locker room, but there will be no blending in for them on Sunday as they enjoy a homecoming of sorts.
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Cincinnati (2-1) travels to play the Atlanta Falcons (1-2) for the first time at Mercedes-Benz Stadium, and the former Bulldogs on the roster will all make an impact.
“I think it’s a credit to those guys they’ve played for,” Lewis said when asked about the uniqueness of having so many Georgia players. “They’ve had great coaching at Georgia. Kirby (Smart) now, but coach (Mark) Richt when he was there, and those guys we have I think all played for him. They all are very quiet. They all just put their head down and do work and aspire to be great, and I think that’s a really good trait to have in your building. They are no-nonsense players, and we have been fortunate because four or five other guys have already kind of matriculated and graduated out of the building that have been here as well that all shared that same trait. It’s been great for us.”
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The Georgia connection runs deep with the Bengals. In addition to the five former Bulldogs, defensive end Michael Johnson played at Georgia Tech.
Johnson and Atkins are among the handful of current players that were on the team the last time Cincinnati played in Atlanta, a 39-32 loss at the former Georgia Dome in 2010 when Boling and Green were in their final year at Georgia. Glenn, who played for the Buffalo Bills from 2012 through 2017, was a junior then.
Green and Williams were there by the next game against the Falcons in 2014, a 24-10 win for the Bengals in Cincinnati, but Green played just five snaps before suffering a toe injury. His health going into this week was a question once again after he suffered a hip injury at Carolina on Sunday, but he told reporters after the game he “will be fine” and expects to play.
The standout receiver did not speak to media Wednesday but participated in the early portion of practice that was open to watch and Lewis said he expects Green to play Sunday.
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“A.J. will be fine,” Lewis said. “I think it was probably a little bit of an aggravation of an injury he may have had in college, but it seemed to come around very quickly with the anti-inflammatories and so forth, so I think we’re very fortunate with that.
“Those are positive reports, no doubt. But 18 is a warrior. He missed the last time we played the Falcons and I know he didn’t go the last time we played them in the preseason in Atlanta, and he wasn’t here the last time before that (in 2010), so it’s his first trip back to Georgia — all of our guys maybe, except Geno, and I guess maybe Cordy did with Buffalo.”
The trip back to Atlanta will be especially meaningful for Green, Boling and Glenn. Green spends his offseasons in Georgia, and Boling and Glenn both grew up there – Boling a graduate of Chattahoochee High 45 minutes outside of Atlanta and Glenn from Riverdale, which is a suburb of the city.
“Going back to your hometown there’s going to be a lot of family and friends in attendance so it should be a fun game, so it’s something to look forward to,” Boling said, noting his parents, his wife’s parents and a bunch of friends will be in attendance. “I’ve been to a few Falcons games before. Growing up as a kid, we normally went to more Georgia games on a weekend but I grew up as a Falcons and Braves fan, cheering for all the Atlanta sports, so it’s kind of neat to now get a chance to play there against them.”
Glenn also said he looks forward to his return to Atlanta, but noted he feels at home in Cincinnati with so many other Bulldogs around.
“It made it easier coming to a team where I already knew some guys,” Glenn said. “We have a strong connection being from Georgia, and it made the transition smoother.”
The Georgia crew won’t get a chance to see their No. 2-ranked Bulldogs live this weekend, though they play at home against Tennessee at 3:30 p.m. Saturday. That is the Bengals’ travel day.
Green flew the guys to the SEC Championship game on a private charter jet last year, but this time, they’ll have to watch online or on TV, if it works into the team’s schedule.
“We’ll be able to catch some of it, but it’s Tennessee,” Boling said. “It’s not as big as it used to be I guess, … but it’s nice to see the team doing well again. They’re off to a good start, so hopefully it’s a good weekend for all of us Bulldogs down in Georgia.”
Bengals at Falcons, 1 p.m., WHIO-TV Ch. 7, Ch. 12, 1530, 102.7, 104.7