Green-Ellis gets boost from Bengals coach

CINCINNATI -- BenJarvus Green-Ellis' future with the Cincinnati Bengals first appeared in doubt back in early May when the Bengals drafted running back Jeremy Hill out of LSU.

The rookie is bigger than Green-Ellis. He's faster and clearly younger, too. His legs have several years left in them. Not the one or two Green-Ellis' presumably have remaining.

Such evidence, it would seem, suggests the writing is on the wall for Green-Ellis.

But the Bengals aren't yet making plain any assertions of that sort, as they continue to believe there remains a place on the team for the 29-year-old known throughout the league for his dependable hands. Running back coach Kyle Caskey relayed such sentiments Sunday afternoon when he reaffirmed his commitment to the back who is anchoring the team's training camp backfield battle.

"Benny is still one of our guys and Benny is still getting the same amount of reps that Benny's always gotten," Caskey said. "Nothing's been taken away from Benny."

Caskey's comments come after Green-Ellis was moved from his first-team duties last season to the second- and third-team units during minicamp and organized team activities. He's begun training camp behind Hill and starter Giovani Bernard, and doesn't appear poised to emerge from their shadows any time soon.

Backups Cedric Peerman and Rex Burkhead have been among the backs getting repetitions with Green-Ellis below Bernard and Hill. One or both could threaten to take the veteran's spot.

Just four days into camp, it's tough to tell whether either will end up doing that. Actually, if Green-Ellis' spot on the roster came down to popular player opinion, it would appear that he would be overwhelmingly kept. Few players receive the type of support from the players standing on the sidelines than Green-Ellis has gotten so far.

Whenever he cuts back on an inside run or catches a screen pass out of the backfield, a steady stream of "Attaboy, Benny" erupts from the side. It's clear the veteran is liked and respected by his peers on both sides of the ball.

"He's a pro's pro," Caskey said. "He helps lead our young guys, and he helps bring them on. He does everything you ask him to do. He's been playing for a long time for a reason. He'll continue to play."

Ahead of his second NFL season, Bernard said during the offseason that he admired Green-Ellis.

"To have somebody like Benny who not only played here, but who played in New England and who plays the game the way he does, who understands it the way he does, you can learn a lot from somebody like that," Bernard said. "And I did. I continue to ask him questions.

"Whether he is here or not, I will still ask him questions. That's a person I'm going to rely on. That's a person I'm going to lean on because he understands the game very well."

Much of the knock on Green-Ellis this offseason came after his production declined last season. After averaging 3.9 yards per carry his first season with the Bengals in 2012, he rushed for just 3.4 yards per carry last year. He also saw his receptions plummet from 22 in 2012 to four last year. Also, after not having a fumble through his first four seasons, he now has five in his last two.

Production decreases aren't among the Bengals' chief concerns right now, though. They simply want to see how well he fits into their running back rotation through this camp. If he fits to their liking, he will make the team.

If he doesn't make the team this year or gets let go at the end of 2014 or sometime after, the Bengals just hope younger backs like Bernard truly have been taking notes.

"He won't play forever. Nobody does," Caskey said. "But he can pass on his [leadership] traits to Gio. And Gio can pass them on to Jeremy. And Jeremy can pass those on to the next guy or whatever the case may be."

Green-Ellis' task for now is to stockpile as many lessons as he can, and to teach them for years to come, not days.