The remorse in A.J. Green's voice is as obvious as his extraordinary talent.
As much as he wants to look ahead, he can’t help but look back and see what a hole Georgia dug for itself while he stood on the sidelines for the first four games serving an NCAA-mandated suspension.
The Bulldogs head to Colorado this Saturday riding their first three-game losing streak in two decades, and Green doesn’t mind saying that he deserves a big part of the blame.
“I feel very responsible for the 1-3 start because I feel like if I was out there, I could have made a difference,” said Green, the Bulldogs’ star receiver. “The close losses might have been close wins.”
Green said the worst part for him was watching the Bulldogs struggle these last three weeks. In the two losses to South Carolina and Mississippi State, they scored a total of one touchdown, and that came in the final minute and a half against Mississippi State when the game was already over.
“It was really just painful watching them and knowing I couldn’t do anything about it,” Green said. “It just makes me even hungrier. It really made me work hard in practice, just to be ready when my time was up.”
The 6-foot-4, 212-pound junior returns to the lineup this weekend, and the Bulldogs can sure use some more pop in their offense. They’re 10th in the SEC in scoring offense, ninth in total offense and have lacked the kind of explosive plays down the field that Green has consistently given them the last two seasons.
The reality is that he hasn’t been in the lineup very much lately. He injured his shoulder in the first half of the Auburn game last season, and counting his suspension this season, has missed seven of the last nine games Georgia has played.
Green plans on being a more vocal leader the rest of the way and said he’s confident this season can still be saved.
“We just have to keep getting better and keep fighting,” he said. “If we win out, we can have a good season.”
Green was suspended by the NCAA after selling one of his game jerseys to former North Carolina football player Chris Hawkins, who was identified by the NCAA as an agent. Green sold the jersey to earn some cash for a spring break trip. The NCAA discovered the transaction by going through his bank records and noticing a $1,000 deposit.
Green said Tuesday he’d never met Hawkins face-to-face and that he knew him only through Facebook. Green also said he was unaware that Hawkins was an agent.
Georgia appealed to have Green’s suspension reduced, but that appeal was denied. Green said he apologized to his teammates and that they forgave him.
He did say that he was surprised at the length of his suspension.
“I thought it was a little severe, but I broke the rule and had to deal with it,” Green said.
One of the top NFL draft prospects in the country, Green said there’s a part of him that feels like he owes the school and the fans another season.
“When I lay down sometimes, I feel like I owe the fans and maybe should think about coming back [next year],” said Green, a certain first-round selection if he comes out this year. “I just feel like I owe the fans for missing those four games.”
Green also took time to support his coach, Mark Richt, who’s under fire by fans and said earlier this week that this was the most adversity he’s faced as a coach.
“It surprises me, but when things aren’t going well, they’re always looking for someone to blame,” Green said. “Coach Richt’s not going anywhere. He’s a great coach and has done a lot for this program.”