RB Ahman Green thrilled to be back with Green Bay Packers, even as a backup
Wednesday, October 21, 2009
Green Bay Press Gazette

Ahman Green won’t play this week, and even when he does return to the field for the Green Bay Packers, it’s not likely to be in the same role in which he amassed 8,162 career yards.

And that’s OK with him.

After what he went through the last two seasons with the Houston Texans, Green appeared ready to accept any job the Packers have for him.

Green signed a one-year contract for the prorated portion of the $845,000 veteran minimum plus incentives on Wednesday to return to the Packers, where he was the starting running back from 2000 to 2006. He needs 46 yards to become the Packers' career rushing leader.

Green will wear No. 34 in his second stint with the Packers. His old jersey number, No. 30, has worn by fullback John Kuhn for the past three seasons.

Green has been out of football since the Texans released him in February, halfway through the four-year, $23 million contract he signed with them as an unrestricted free agent in March 2007. His tenure in Houston was a disaster. Knee injuries limited him to just 14 games in two seasons. He’ll go down as one of the biggest free-agency mistakes of this decade.

When he was cut earlier this year, Green moved back to Green Bay, where he maintained a house, and hoped the Packers would bring him back.

“I would have come here and signed a one-day contract and retired as a Packer and called it quits,” Green said. “But something was missing after these past two years, and I didn’t quite want to finish that way, the way my career was in Houston. I didn’t want that to become my legacy, finishing that way. I had a great run here, and I wanted to finish that in my way.”

Green wouldn’t go so far as to say signing with the Texans was a mistake – after all, he made $8 million the first season, more than the Packers had offered him in 2007 — but he called it a “different” experience.

“It’s been a journey from the time I left in March of ’07 to right now,” Green said. “It’s just been a good and bad experience. I learned a lot of things and knew when I left what I was missing here in Green Bay. Nothing bad about Houston, but it was just a different experience. With all that behind me, I’m glad to be back home.”

Green, 32, has moved well past the age at which running backs typically can be productive. But he says his knee injury, which didn’t require surgery last season, wasn’t as bad as the Texans made it out to be. He said the Texans put him on injured reserve even though he believes he could have returned in a week or two.

He ruled out being ready for Sunday’s game at Cleveland because he said he needs time to get into football shape. He didn’t do much in practice on Wednesday and will be in full pads for the first time on Thursday.

“I think it’s going to be more realistic the week after that or the week after that,” Green said.

The Packers made the decision to sign Green on Wednesday morning after team physician Dr. Pat McKenzie determined that backup running back DeShawn Wynn needed surgery to repair a lingering knee injury that dates to training camp. Wynn was placed on season-ending injured reserve for the second time in his three-year career.

The Packers chose to sign Green rather than former Indianapolis Colts running back Dominic Rhodes, who worked out with Green on Monday, or to promote Kregg Lumpkin from the practice squad.

If there’s an area where Green could help the Packers, it could be on third down. He has been good historically in pass protection and is better in the screen game than either starting running back Ryan Grant or backup Brandon Jackson.

“He always had a great feel in the screen game, and the screen game is an underappreciated part of our offense,” quarterback Aaron Rodgers said. “That’s something we’d like to incorporate a little more.”

Green also might be able to help Grant, who’s relatively inexperienced in just his second full season as a starter. The two struck up a friendship when Grant arrived in Green Bay in 2007 even though Green had moved on to Houston. Green stayed in contact with running backs coach Edgar Bennett and several of his former teammates, who helped put Grant in touch with Green.

“I think he can help on and off the field, just picking his brain,” Grant said. “We were talking earlier in the season about different things he sees.”

This is the second time in as many weeks the Packers have brought back one of their former players. Last week, it was right tackle Mark Tauscher. For a team that opened the season with the youngest roster in the NFL, they have been welcome additions even though no one is sure whether they will be productive.

“We have a lot of history with Ahman, so we really didn’t go off of what happened with the Texans,” Packers coach Mike McCarthy said. “We felt obviously he’d be a good fit here. He has history here. He understands the offense, so the learning curve is minimal.”

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