Packers: It's all business to Green
Friday, December 29, 2006
Wisconsin State Journal


GREEN BAY - If the Green Bay Packers decide not to re- sign halfback Ahman Green after the season, Green will walk away knowing he did everything he could to convince them.

"I don't think they should be worried about (signing me to) a long-term deal. If they're worried, then there ain't much else I can do," said Green, who enters Sunday night's regular- season finale at Chicago needing 12 yards to reach the 1,000- yard mark for the sixth time in his career and 117 yards to break Hall of Famer Jim Taylor's franchise career rushing record of 8,207 yards.

"I've done about everything a person could do to say, 'Look, I'm here for a while.'"

Indeed, Green has completed a remarkable recovery from the ruptured quadriceps tendon he suffered in his right leg Oct. 23, 2005, in Minnesota, rushing for 988 yards on 244 carries (4.0-yard average) despite missing two games earlier in the month with hamstring problems.

Asked if he doubted himself at any point during his comeback, Green replied, "I had no doubt. None. I thought about (a potential season-ending injury) a lot, even when I was healthy. You see other guys get hurt, and I thought, 'If it does happen to me, am I going to be depressed and all woe-is-me, or am I going to hit it head on?'

"I never once thought, 'I'm done. It's my eighth year, I can't come back.' Instead, I'm like, 'Let's hit this thing head- on. If I can't do it, I can't do it, but at least I can look at myself in the mirror and say I did everything I could.' I did it, and I'm out there, and I did what I did this season."

And he's done it despite a new zone-blocking system and behind an offensive line that started three rookies for a significant chunk of the season.

"We haven't given him a lot of help, (with) our inconsistency (up front)," offensive coordinator Jeff Jagodzinski said Thursday. "The guy's got talent. We could be running the wing- T, he'd still be good. Remember, he was the premier guy in the league for a while there. He's still got some skills. Got a lot of them, I think."

The Packers' conundrum is whether those skills have diminished to the point that Green isn't worth bringing back. While general manager Ted Thompson gave his standard line when asked about the odds of Green returning - "We never talk about stuff like that," Thompson said - he clearly has been impressed by Green's commitment and comeback.

"I think he's done very, very well. It's not a big surprise," Thompson said. "Certainly it was a serious injury, but you know Ahman. He's a warrior."

Of course, the Packers knew that last offseason, too, but they decided against signing him to a long-term deal in light of the injury.

All Green, who turns 30 - the not-so-magic number for NFL running backs - in February, had to do last season to earn one last big-money free- agent contract was stay healthy and put up the kind of numbers he had during his four consecutive Pro Bowl seasons (an average of 1,418 yards and 9.5 rushing touchdowns per year).

Instead, after missing the final 10 games, he ended up accepting an incentive-laden one- year, $2 million deal just before free agency, knowing other teams wouldn't take a chance on a player coming off such a significant injury. The deal included a $500,000 signing bonus - the only guaranteed money - as well as a $150,000 roster bonus and a $1.35 million base salary. He's earned every penny this year.

The deal also contained $2.75 million of incentives, stipulating that Green would receive $250,000 if he rushed for 750 yards, $500,000 more if he reached 950 yards, another $500,000 for 1,150 yards, $500,000 more for 1,350 yards and another $500,000 for 1,550 yards. Green has hit those first two benchmarks, earning himself $750,000, but he'll need 162 yards Sunday night to make himself $500,000 more.

"Considering what he went through last year, for him to play at the level he's playing, it's a tribute to him," running backs coach Edgar Bennett said. "He's been extremely focused this year. He really wants it. He's playing with a chip on his shoulder; he's playing with something to prove. Ahman, he's a competitor. That's really one of his greatest attributes. When he steps on the field, there's not a doubt in my mind he's going to give us everything he has. I love that."

That said, Green has come out of games more often during the second half of the season, frequently heading for the sideline after back-to-back runs in favor of backups Vernand Morency or Noah Herron. He's also been held out of Wednesday practices every week to keep his body fresh.

The Packers - and the free-agent market - will decide what kind of contract that merits. Green said playing three or four more years might be "wishful thinking," but he hasn't ruled it out.

"I want to be here. That's really important to me, because this is where I've been the majority of my career," said Green, whose best season came in 2003, when he rushed for a Packers franchise-record 1,883 yards and scored 20 touchdowns. "To do the things I've done, this is basically where it all started. To finish out here would mean a lot to me. If it doesn't happen, then hey, it's part of the business."


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