The injuries were one thing. John Ross understood that all he could do with those was recover.

The part with which the Cincinnati Bengals receiver struggled the most as a rookie last year was the pain from the criticism and second-guessing about the level of his desire to play in the NFL. Being limited to a mere 17 snaps during the 2017 season was something that bothered him more than anyone could have imagined.

‘No one wants to be hurt and no one plans on being hurt’

“It hurt me a lot, because I feel like sometimes people don’t understand what a player’s going through,” Ross told Bruce Murray and Brady Quinn during a recent appearance on the SiriusXM Blitz. “Not just me, but everyone who goes through something that they can’t control. No one wants to be hurt and no one plans on being hurt, so you’ve got to look at the guys who work hard every day and then they go out and there’s freak accidents, there’s things that happen all the time.”

Ross’ rookie season got off to a dubious start when he missed most of training camp as he recovered from offseason surgery to repair labrum damage in his shoulder. After that came a sprained knee … followed by surgery on his other shoulder. But that didn’t stop the critics from taking aim at Ross, in large part because the Bengals made the former University of Washington standout the ninth overall pick of the NFL Draft.

‘People don’t understand that you are dealing with something that’s traumatic to your career’

“When people question the things that you desire when they don’t understand, it’s kind of tough on a player,” Ross said. “Because you don’t understand why they would do something like that, because they just really don’t know what you’re going through. And I think that’s the problem sometimes, the fact that people don’t understand that you are dealing with something that’s traumatic to your career and they really can’t seem to feel the pain that you’re going through. So they really don’t understand.

“It was a real crazy year. It happened so fast, but I just had to quickly adjust. It was very tough in the beginning with so much going on. And rookie year is so long, so I kind of felt like it never slowed down for me. But as the second year is approaching, it’s slowing down tremendously and I’m starting to see things better. I’ve been in it for a year, so I kind of know what to expect and I know what I’m watching and basically just be prepared for what I’m getting myself into this year.”

‘We’ve just got to fill that void that we didn’t fill last year as far as the guys who didn’t get to play as much’

Ross is looking forward to contributing to a passing game that now has him back healthy, along with tight end Tyler Eifert, and its top pass-catcher, A.J. Green.

“Yeah, definitely. I was excited about it last year,” he said. “And just going into this year with the way we’ve been practicing and how everyone’s been looking, it’s looking really good. We’ve just got to fill that void that we didn’t fill last year as far as the guys who didn’t get to play as much. I feel like everyone else did what they were supposed to do. A.J. Green is always phenomenal, (quarterback) Andy (Dalton) had a good season, so I feel like the more we improve and the better the timing and the more we’re healthy and the more we’re together, I think the sky’s the limit.”

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