Green is a good kind of no-show
Back hasn’t been listed on injury report
Saturday, December 29, 2001
Green Bay Press Gazette
Back hasn’t been listed on injury report
By Frank Schwab
Ahman Green is working on a pair of impressive achievements as the Green Bay Packers’ regular season winds down.
First is his NFC-leading 1,813 yards from scrimmage, surpassing the previous club record of 1,805 set by Dorsey Levens in 1997, and he will add significantly to that total in Green Bay’s two remaining games. He’s one of only three players in the NFL with what could be considered even a moderately good chance at getting 2,000 total yards this season, with Kansas City’s Priest Holmes (1,856) and St. Louis’ Marshall Faulk (1,756) being the others.
Green finished last season with several good games down the stretch and the Packers obviously knew he was capable of being one of the elite backs in the NFL this year, as evidenced by the lucrative long-term contract they rewarded him with in the offseason. As he approaches 2,000 total yards for the season, they say that’s the kind of season they wanted from him.
“Based on what he did last year, I saw him as that type of player,” coach Mike Sherman said. “I didn’t think he couldn’t do that. He’s capable of doing anything, and he has a tremendous work ethic, that’s going to make him even better.”
However, Green’s lofty numbers this year, an NFC-best 1,255 yards rushing and 558 yards receiving, wouldn’t be possible without a somewhat-surprising streak he’s been able to maintain. From the beginning of the regular season, Green has not appeared on the team’s official injury report, which is a remarkable feat considering that with 322 combined carries and receptions, only New Orleans’ Ricky Williams has more touches among NFC running backs, with 340. Washington’s Stephen Davis also has 322 touches.
“It’s not luck, it’s a whole bunch of things added together,” said Green about his health. “Like offseason workout. If you make yourself hurt more during the offseason workout, you have less pain during the season. That’s how I looked at it.
“Stuff like running the ball hard and dishing out the punishment before the defender dishes it out on you, it all factors in.”
The lack of even a minor injury for Green since the season started is also a curiosity based on the way he plays. Like the man he has patterned his game after, former Chicago Bears great Walter Payton, Green has speed, but on many plays he looks to initiate contact, and very rarely avoids it.
“He’s a punishing runner,” Sherman said. “I’d like to see him put a move on some guys, but he’d rather run over guys at different times.”
Green has also been tested physically with his blitz pickup, becoming a steady blocker in the pass game when he’s been asked to do it, something that wasn’t necessarily a strength of his game early last season.
“No one has really mentioned his ability and willingness to be a great blocker,” Sherman said. “He cuts them down. He’s as good of a blocker as he is a runner.”
Aside from Green remaining healthy as the playoffs draw closer, the Packers will need him to continue to play at a high level even with defenses geared toward stopping him.
Green said he noticed more safeties creeping up near the line of scrimmage to slow down the run late last year, as he was emerging as a game-breaking NFL back. This year, the extra man in the box has been a regular issue he’s had to deal with.
Some teams have been able to get Green Bay to stray from the running game by having early success stopping it, usually by devoting an extra defender to play against the run. That was the case when the Packers faced this week’s opponent, the Minnesota Vikings, for the first time this season on Oct. 21.
“In terms of this year, I’ve seen it since Day 1,” Green said. “I’ve seen nine and eight guys and sometimes 10 guys in the box, which is basically letting you know, being straightforward that ‘We’re here to stop the run.’”
As Green tries to become the first Packers running back to lead the NFC in rushing yards since John Brockington in 1973, he also has a chance to get the all-time Packers single-season rushing mark. Green’s total from this year is already the fourth-highest single-season total in team history, and needs 219 yards in his last two games to tie Jim Taylor’s record of 1,474 yards set in 1962.
If Green breaks that record, or any other, it won’t be because he’s making a conscious effort to chase any statistical goal.
“Half the things I’ve done, I don’t even know about it until one of you guys (the media) tells me or a (public relations) guy tells me,” Green said. “I have no clue. I’m not a stats guy or a number guy. I’m a guy that goes out there, puts on my helmet and busts heads and has fun at it.”
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