CINCINNATI — With trade rumors building, Bengals wide receiver A.J. Green donned his helmet and shoulder pads for Thursday's practice and participated in some drills for the first time since July.
Green has already been declared out for Sunday’s game at Baltimore, but his presence was sure to provide a spark for a team that has sunk to 0-5 without its best player.
However, if Green’s return indicates he’s close to playing for the first time since hurting his ankle on the first day of training camp, there's still the big question:
Will the seven-time Pro Bowler be playing for the Bengals or the Patriots or another NFL team?
With the Oct. 29 trade deadline approaching and rookie coach Zac Taylor’s team already out of contention, the Bengals are expected to "begin fielding calls for a core group of key players" in the coming weeks, according to CBS Sports' NFL Insider Jason La Canfora.
Canfora also mentioned Tyler Eifert, Geno Atkins, Carlos Dunlap and William Jackson as having trade interest for other teams.
— Ian Rapoport (@RapSheet) October 10, 2019
Taylor tried to squash the Green trade rumors Thursday, saying the Bengals would not trade one of the franchise’s greatest players.
Green, who’s in the last year of his four-year, $60 miliion contract, addressed speculation of a potential trade on Wednesday, telling Bengals.com he's aware of the possibility.
"I'm prepared for anything," Green said. "A trade's not going to change who I am. I'm still going to play. I'm still going to be A.J."
As Taylor said, odds are Green isn’t going anywhere if the two sides can come close on a contract extension. The 31-year-old wideout said he is loyal to the Bengals and would sign if the team’s offer is fair.
"I want the team records," Green told Bengals.com. "I want more Pro Bowls. I want all that so when I leave there is going to be a standard."
And it’s not like Bengals owner Mike Brown to hold a fire sale for a player so dear to his teammates, management and fans.
Nevertheless, La Canfora said it's "highly unlikely" Green will re-sign during the season, adding that NFL general managers believe Cincinnati could get a first-round draft pick in a trade.
Earlier this week, Taylor affirmed Green's value to the franchise.
"He obviously means a lot to this organization," Taylor said.