Green, fumbles and all, keeps faith of Sherman
Wednesday, November 14, 2001
Green Bay Press Gazette

By Rob Demovsky

Given what Ahman Green has accomplished over the past season and a half, Green Bay Packers coach Mike Sherman’s patience with his star running back’s tendency to fumble isn’t about to wear thin anytime soon.

Though Green fumbled again Sunday at Chicago, his third in the last four games and his fourth overall this season, Sherman has little choice but to simply live with Green’s miscues given how he’s made up for them with his overall production.

Coming off a season in which he rushed for a career-high 1,175 yards, Green — at the halfway point of 2001 — leads the NFC with 774 rushing yards and leads all of the NFL with 1,084 total yards from scrimmage.

“Do you take him out of the lineup because of that?” Sherman said.

“I don’t think we can. He has too much explosiveness to overcome those things. Previous to this year, he’s had some very careless fumbles.”

Sherman doesn’t think carelessness has been the case this year. Sherman was the offensive coordinator and coached Green in Seattle, where Mike Holmgren couldn’t tolerate Green’s fumbles and eventually traded him to the Packers in April 2000 for cornerback Fred Vinson.

With four fumbles through eight games this season, Green’s on pace to surpass his six fumbles last season.

Though Green’s history suggests he’s prone to fumbling, Sherman believes Green is getting better at taking care of the football. He didn’t characterize Sunday’s fumble at the Bears’ 15-yard line as careless.

“Obviously, it was a fumble,” Sherman said. “It wasn’t like the one last week (against Tampa Bay) where he was trying to get the extra yardage. He was just there, and they yanked it out. They went after the ball. He was up, churning his legs, and they pulled it out of there.”

Sherman suggested Green might be more likely to fumble because his running style is such that he fights hard for yards after contact, which makes Green more likely to be gang-tackled. That style might allow Green to break some runs that other backs might not, but he might cough it up more as well.

To combat that, Sherman said he wants Green to cover the football with two arms rather than one when he’s running in traffic. Green, who is left-handed, almost always holds the ball in his left arm regardless of which side of the field he’s on. Most coaches prefer that runners carry the ball in their outside arm, or the arm closer to the sideline and further from the defenders. Sherman has said he won’t make Green change the way he holds the ball, but he wants him to cover it better.

“He’s got to get that other arm over the ball maybe a little sooner,” Sherman said. “When he comes out of that second wave of defenders, he’s that close from breaking one, so we have to take the good with the bad and keep coaching up the bad.”

With Green’s fumble problems and quarterback Brett Favre’s occasional unwillingness to throw the ball away and thus causing interceptions, Sherman has to “take the good with the bad” from his top two offensive players.

“It’s something we have to keep working with, and hopefully he can overcome that,” Sherman said of Green. “If anybody’s put in the situation he’s in, where they’re tackling the ball, the legs are going, one arm’s pumping, he’s got to get that other arm over the ball.

“He’ll be the first one working on the gauntlet (in practice today) making sure he’s right, but when you have three guys prying your arms away from your body, that can be difficult at times.”

Sherman attempted to defend Green’s fumbles by using St. Louis Rams running back Marshall Faulk as an example. Sherman said Faulk has three fumbles (in 94 carries) this season, meaning he has 31 rushes per fumble to Green’s 37. However, a review of the Rams’ play-by-plays from this season showed that one of Faulk’s fumbles came after a pass reception.

In addition, Faulk doesn’t have the fumbling history that Green does. Green has fumbled 10 times in the 24 games.

“He has to face an inordinate amount of pressure on the football, something he has to deal with,” Sherman said. “But I don’t believe (Green’s fumbles) are similar to the ones he had last year or in Seattle, where he was a little careless with the ball.”

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