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Will Fehlinger

A.J. Green last played a regular-season game for the Cincinnati Bengals on Dec. 2, 2018.

I’m sure he hasn’t missed any home or car payments since then, not with his $15 million salary sliding through the siphoning tube into his bank account.

You see, the 31-year-old Pro-Bowl wide receiver will be an unrestricted free agent following the 2019 season, meaning he’s expected to sign one more lucrative long-term contract before he rides off into the professional athlete’s retirement – one that assuredly will be more comfortable, and considerably longer, than yours or mine.

On the first day of training camp in July, Green suffered an ankle injury, a low-ankle sprain. OK … and?

He was expected to be back on the field in 6-8 weeks, but come late September, no sign of No. 18. Move on to mid-October and it was announced Green wouldn’t be available until after the team’s bye week of Nov. 3. First-year head coach Zac Taylor told the media on Nov. 6 that his star wideout would likely play that Sunday against division rival Baltimore. But after a mere walkthrough at that day’s practice, Green retreated to the trainer’s room.

By this time, to put it into context, Cincinnati had lost its first eight games and the season was clearly lost. In addition, Taylor installed rookie quarterback Ryan Finley to replace veteran Andy Dalton, a signal caller most familiar to Green.

Three more weeks passed – including the return of Dalton and the season’s first win on Dec. 1 – and the former 1st-round draft pick was still dressed in civilian clothes.

Don’t we all know where this is going?

Green didn’t “feel” good enough to suit up against the New England Patriots, then announced he would not be making the trip to face the Miami Dolphins and was placed on season-ending injured reserve prior to the Battle of Ohio against the Cleveland Browns on Dec. 29. Then, when the free agency signing period begins on March 18, Green will be snatched up by Bill Belichick and the Patriots … roughly 11 months before he’s hoisting the Lombardi trophy next to a beaming Tom Brady.

I’ve written about this before and it bothers me a lot more with age, but these are supposedly world-class athletes with just about every advantage at their disposal – a professional training staff and only the best doctors tending to their every need, seemingly no financial barriers, a job that allows several months of recovery time and the opportunity to physically prepare for a rigorous season.

I completely understand injuries are a delicate issue and everyone heals differently. But, unfortunately, I think there’s much more involved with this particular case than a tender lower extremity.

But wouldn’t it be nice if all the fans who shelled out close to $100 for a replica Green jersey and at least another hundred for a prime seat at Paul Brown Stadium on any given Sunday got to see the real jersey running between the sidelines at least once throughout the calendar year?

Will Fehlinger can be contacted at sports@batesvilleheraldtribune.com or 812-934-4343, ext. 220112

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