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A.J. Green Hopes To Emulate Tom Brady In Second Act

Veteran wide receiver joins Cardinals after illustrious career with Bengals

WR A.J. Green (left) signs his contract alongside owner Michael Bidwill.
WR A.J. Green (left) signs his contract alongside owner Michael Bidwill.

It was odd to see Tom Brady in a new uniform in 2020, but it couldn't have worked out any better for the Super Bowl-winning Buccaneers.

A.J. Green – the star wideout who was revered in Cincinnati like Brady was in New England -- is hoping change is just as good for him.

The seven-time Pro Bowler spoke excitedly on Thursday morning about joining the Cardinals, where he hopes to follow Brady's blueprint for career revitalization.

"Coming to Arizona is refreshing," said Green, who played his first 10 years with the Bengals. "You look around the league at Tom Brady and all these other guys that have been in these same places for years, and you saw what Tom Brady did last year. I think it's good."

Green is joining a Cardinals team that went 8-8 a year ago and has made aggressive moves this offseason to bolster the roster. There are questions about Green's ability to be the game-breaking receiver of his past, after he missed 2019 due to injury and had only 523 receiving yards in 2020.

"I feel like I have a lot left in the tank," Green said. "I still feel young. The legs feel young. Last year was a difficult year for me, playing with the different quarterbacks and coming off an injury. But I wouldn't change that for anything in the world. That made me a better person on the field, mentally stronger. I know I feel like I've got a lot more years left in me playing at a high level."

For the first time in his career, Green won't be the No. 1 receiver, of which he found appealing. DeAndre Hopkins will get the lion's share of attention from opposing defenses in 2021, and Green sees a serious benefit from that setup.

"I think that's going to take a lot off me," Green said. "What he's done in this league forever, the caliber of player he is, for me to be on the other side of that, I'm going to get a lot of one-on-ones, and I'm very excited about that. Ten years playing in an offense where you were the focal point to take away every week. Coming to this offense where you have all these other guys, all these playmakers on the field with you, it'll make my job a lot easier."

Green is excited about quarterback Kyler Murray's mobility, but also believes in his arm talent. Green's longtime coach in Cincinnati, Marvin Lewis, is now a special advisor at Arizona State, which has given him an up-close view of Murray, and his message to Green was favorable.

"He told me one thing about Kyler," Green said. "He said, 'He can sling it, A.J. You'll be very happy.'"

Green, Hopkins and Christian Kirk figure to be a major part of the aerial attack in 2021. The question on everyone's minds: Will Larry Fitzgerald also be a part of that, or will he retire?

Green and Fitzgerald are close, but they didn't chat previous to Green signing with the Cardinals.

"I never even asked him about the situation or told him about this," Green said. "I just want to keep the business side out of it with Larry. He loves this place. Larry is Arizona. I knew once I signed I would talk to him. He wants the best for me. He's like a big brother to me. Whatever happens, I'm going to have Larry in my corner no matter what."

Green was arguably the best receiver in the NFL at his peak, so praise is nothing new to him. However, the 32-year-old said he felt like he was back on an official college recruiting visit because the Cardinals pursued him so aggressively in free agency.

Green appreciated that love, and he is hopeful the partnership can produce Brady-like results in 2021.

"In my search of my next team, it was always about winning," Green said. "Playing for a winning team and being in meaningful games in January and February. That's the main goal -- winning a championship."

Images of wide receiver A.J. Green signing his one-year deal with the Cardinals.

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