Green is carrying the load
Running back displays durability Thursday, October 17, 2002
Milwaukee Journal Sentinel

Running back displays durability


Green Bay - In a matter of six days, running back Ahman Green carried the ball 58 times against two of the most physical teams in the National Football League.

Not only did he live to tell about it, he was no worse for the wear.

"I came out of it feeling pretty good," Green said of the Green Bay Packers' 28-10 victory over New England in which he carried a career-high 31 times. "I felt worse this past week than I did this week. I don't know why, but I did."

Green's 136 yards against the Patriots didn't come easy. He had a long run of 38 yards, which means he averaged 3.3 yards per carry on his other 30 attempts.

The game was played in a mist that made the field slippery and tough to navigate at times. Most of his runs were between the tackles against a defense eager to prove it could stop the run after three straight poor performances.

The week before, Green carried the ball 27 times against a Chicago defense hellbent on stopping the run and pounded out 107 yards. If you take away his long run of 43 yards, he averaged 2.5 yards per attempt on his 26 other carries.

"Because he takes such good care of his body, I think he's a back that can handle it," Packers coach Mike Sherman said. "If he has a long or punishing run, we always will put someone in there - most of the time, I should say. We try to take some of that off of him.

"He went to Nebraska, for cryin' out loud; he should be able to handle carrying the football. I think he's capable of 28 to 30 times a game."

Sherman said he had planned on Green carrying 28 times against the Bears and 30 against New England, so the 58 total he wound up with was exactly what he anticipated. The 58 carries in consecutive games surpassed Green's previous high of 52 in the 2000 season.

Backing up Green, the Packers have two rookies, both of whom they like a lot. But there's no substitute for his punishing style of running and big-play ability, so he's going to get almost all of the carries.

Green ranks fifth in the National Football League in rushing with 552 yards. He missed one game because of a leg injury and would lead the league if he had played in six games based on his 110-yard-per-game average.

The Packers are probably going to have to run the ball a lot this week against a Washington team that ranks 10th in the league in defending the pass and has a trio of cornerbacks - Fred Smoot, Champ Bailey and Darrell Green - among the league's best.

This group is every bit as tough as the Patriots and Bears, especially at linebacker, where Jessie Armstead, Jeremiah Trotter and LaVar Arrington patrol the field.

"I'm expecting another (tough) one this week," Green said. "With Jeremiah and LaVar and all of those guys, they're just as athletic and just as hard-hitting as the last group we faced."

Green's biggest three-game output came at the end of the 2000 season when he carried 79 times (27 vs. Detroit, 25 vs. Minnesota, and 27 vs. Tampa Bay). He needs 22 carries Sunday to surpass that total.

Green ranks seventh in the league in rushing attempts with 119, However, he is tied for second with Kansas City's Priest Holmes for the league lead in attempts per game played with 23.8.

At his current pace, Green would finish the season with 357 carries, which would break his career season high of 304 set last season.

"He's built strong enough that he can handle that," guard Marco Rivera said. "He's solid, a good center of gravity. I don't see any problem with giving him the ball that many times. He runs hard. When he gets tackled, he's going to punish you."

Appeared in the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel on Oct. 17, 2002.

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