Where the grass is Greener
Tuesday, December 26, 2000
Green Bay News Chronicle
By Paul Wait
For The News-Chronicle
Ahman Green stood dripping in the locker room long after many of his teammates had showered and gone home for Christmas.
A small circle of reporters and television cameras circled the Green Bay running back, hoping to get one last player interview after the Packers' season-ending 17-14 overtime win against Tampa Bay. Most players prefer to get dressed, comb their hair and generally make themselves presentable before answering questions.
With a comb stuck in his hair and beads of water riding his shoulders, Green turned to the media and said, "I'm ready."
Luckily for the Packers, Green was ready all season. Ready to carry the ball 263 times. Ready to catch it 73 more. And more than willing to lug the football into the end zone 13 times.
Green, a third-year back from Nebraska, was acquired before the season from Seattle for cornerback Fred Vinson. The Packers planned to use Green to spell featured rusher Dorsey Levens and possibly as a third-down receiver.
He certainly wasn't expected to lead the team in rushing or receiving. He did both.
Powered by a young offensive line, Green posted three 100-yard rushing efforts en route to 1,175 yards for the year. He also snared 73 passes for 559 yards.
Levens, who gained more than 1,000 yards rushing in 1997 and 1999, spent most of the season on the inactive list because of knee and ankle injuries. "I did not expect to be the leading rusher this season," Green said. "I expected 500-600 yards backing up Dorsey."
Green's best games came late in the season, a testament that once rookie tackles Chad Clifton and Mark Tauscher had some NFL experience, the offensive line opened seams much more consistently.
"I can't say enough about the offensive line," Green said. "I rewarded them, and they rewarded me. They helped me get 1,100 yards. To have a season like this, personally, is a great thing. And it helped the team a lot. We got on a roll the last quarter of the season."
With Levens' future in Green Bay clouded by continued injuries and a hefty salary next year, Green realizes he could remain the workhorse running back in 2001. If so, he'll be ready.
"This season took its wear and tear on me. I am tired. Physically and mentally, I'm fine. But if we had one more week, I would just have to crank it up again. But we don't, so it's time to mend and heal and get ready for next season."
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