A.J. Green Walks the Walk, But He Isn't Yet Allowed to Talk the Talk

Different Georgia fans focus on different nuggets of news from the Bulldogs Blog. AuditDawg concentrated on the latest scooter news, whereas my attention was elsewhere. As we say in the legal field, to wit:

Seth Emerson is a sharp guy, so credit the new Bulldog beat reporter for reading between the lines regarding A.J. Green:

A.J. Green agan demurred when asked if he'd had his talk with the NCAA.

"Can’t answer that yet," Green said. "Can’t answer that."

When will he be able to answer that?

"I don’t know," he said. "Whenever Claude gives me the thumbs up."

(Claude being Claude Felton, the associate athletics director for media relations.)

The very fact that Green answered it that way almost confirms that he was the player in question - a fact that's never quite been confirmed. But again, that doesn't mean Green did anything wrong. His denial wasa pretty strong a couple weeks back that he's never even been to Miami.

I tend to agree with Seth that A.J.’s answer strongly suggests that the general consensus (that Green was the player with whom the NCAA wished to speak) was correct. I would take it a step farther, though.

Despite his largely having been muzzled on this issue, A.J. Green has been quite unequivocal in his statements. Rather than rely on obfuscations and negatives pregnant, Green has issued stronger denials even than the situation required. Asked if he went to a party in Miami on Memorial Day weekend, he didn’t follow Nancy Reagan’s advice ("Just say ‘no’"), but instead answered more than was asked. He didn’t just say where he wasn’t; he said where he was. He didn’t just say he wasn’t in Miami that weekend; he said: "I never went to South Beach" and, "I've never even been to Miami."

At least with the press and the public, Green has always been a soft-spoken superstar, so it is telling that he appears so strongly inclined to speak his mind in this matter. Asked at SEC Media Days whether there were things he’d like to say but couldn’t, A.J. once again didn’t say "no," he said "no comment," which is a pretty clear indication that the answer’s "yes."

Now, Seth Emerson is asking him when he’ll be able to say the things he can’t say whether he’d like to say, and his answer, in essence, is: "As soon as Claude Felton says I can."

I mention that not to fault Claude Felton, who always has been friendly, gracious, and prompt to respond any time I have contacted him, even though, quite frankly, he knows that I’m just another fan with absolutely no influence. It seems clear, though, that A.J. Green would speak his mind if he could. (Note the last word of his first answer to Emerson: "Can’t answer that yet.")

Perhaps that’s hubris; maybe that’s the audacity of an elite athlete who believes he is untouchable, akin to Pete Rose’s confidence in the face of overwhelming evidence against him . . . but that’s not consistent with anything we know about A.J. Green. Everything we know about A.J. Green suggests that he is smart, humble, and upstanding. In short, everything we know about A.J. Green suggests that he is highly unlikely to involve himself in anything ill-advised, and he certainly isn’t stupid enough to make bold declarations he knows to be untrue with investigators scurrying about the Southeast who have a strong incentive to send a message to someone.

Green has issued flat denials which left him no wiggle room. He has done everything short of announcing, "I have something to say, but now is not the time for me to say it." His longest and strongest statement upon the subject certainly suggests that the Bulldogs’ star receiver would love to be able to speak up for himself:

I have my circle, and I know who to trust and who not to trust. I'm at the point of my life right now that I don't need to make any new friends. I've got to keep that same circle I've had since day one and not let anybody in that.

The cloud of an NCAA investigation causes questions to be raised about A.J. Green’s character and judgment. This is unfair, because we don’t even know for certain that Green was the player interviewed, and we certainly don’t know the substance of that interview, if it was with him. The handful of hints to have escaped around the edges of the gag figuratively affixed about A.J. Green’s mouth indicate that he would like to be able to mount the defense he deserves to have heard.

I will admit that I am biased in the young man’s favor, but it sounds like A.J. Green is tired of being the subject of rumor and innuendo. It sounds like he’d like to clear up a few misconceptions. In short, A.J. Green sounds like a man who knows the truth, and who knows that the truth, when it finally is heard, will set him free.

Here’s hoping Claude Felton can give him the thumbs up sooner rather than later.

Go ‘Dawgs!

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