Back talkin'
Green on a lot of minds lately Friday, December 5, 2003
Milwaukee Journal Sentinel

Green on a lot of minds lately


Green Bay - With Jim Taylor's blessings, the anticipation is sky high for Green Bay Packers running back Ahman Green to gain the 92 yards he needs to shatter Taylor's 41-year-old single-season franchise rushing record.

And having gained a season-low 52 yards on the ground last week in the Thanksgiving Day loss to Detroit, the Packers are also looking to resuscitate the running game. The next opportunity for the Packers and Green comes Sunday at Lambeau Field against Chicago.

Although the Packers say they want balance, their rushing game remains the axis around which the offense revolves. It's a point not lost on the opponents, as indicated by the comments made by one Chicago defender on the team's Web site:

"We clearly know what we've got to do against Green Bay," defensive tackle Bryan Robinson said. "Brett Favre is the man, make no question about it. But No. 30 (Ahman Green) has been our Achilles' heel the last few times that we played them.

"We want to stop No. 30. We'd love for Brett Favre to feel as if he has to take the ball into his own hands. He's the playmaker and that's what he does if everything else can't get going. (But we have) one thing in mind: go after No. 30."

Green said he was more concerned with the home stretch of the season for his 6-6 Packers, but he did acknowledge the significance of the record, the oldest team rushing record in the National Football League. Taylor had 1,474 yards in 14 games in 1962. Green will be playing in his 13th game Sunday.

"It will be a big thing. Records are made to be broken and somebody is going to come along and do what I did and shatter it, too," Green said. "It's all a part of the game but it's a great accomplishment to be able to do that."

Green has proved he can carry the load, with 1,383 yards this season. He has eight 100-yard rushing games this year, the most in franchise history.

The fumbling issue
The only thing that's keeping him from possibly being a most valuable player candidate is his well-publicized fumbling. Green has fumbled seven times this year, five of which were recovered by the opponent.

Earlier this week, when Taylor spoke to the Journal Sentinel, he expressed pride in his low fumble total. In a teleconference call with Green Bay reporters Thursday, Taylor brought up the subject again after wishing Green the best of luck.

"I am very happy for him and very gracious," said Taylor, who attended the season opener for the Lambeau Field rededication and has watched a handful of other Packers games on TV this year. "We had a lot of character and we were very humble, the Lombardi era team and the players. We had team concept. We were never concerned with individual records. They meant nothing. We just played the game and whatever came along in the end, that's what we accepted. That may be a little different perception than you writers there can understand."

After reporters concluded their part of the interview, Taylor asked reporters what Green's fumble ratio was for his career and proudly noted his own statistics.

Blowing his horn
"A good football player really squeezes that ball and I think I've seen some statistics, some years ago, that I ended up with only 34 fumbles in the 10 years I played and it was the best in the history of the National Football League," he said.

"Putting that ball on the ground and losing possession is just a no-no. It's the worst that a running back can do, is to lose possession of the ball and turn it over to the opponent. This is something I really stressed and was a part of my personality as a running back."

Taylor also told Packer Plus recently that if Green had played for Vince Lombardi, he might have been benched for fumbling the way he did earlier this year.

"Lombardi really preached holding on to the ball," Taylor said. "If you didn't do it, you usually went to the bench. That might have been the case."

Taylor touched the ball 2,180 times, including rushes, receptions, kickoff returns and even fumble recoveries. He had 34 fumbles (33 in Green Bay) for a 63.9-to-1 ratio of touches to fumbles.

In six years in the NFL (the first two with Seattle), Green has 1,487 touches. That includes 1,176 carries, 240 receptions, 63 kickoff returns and eight fumble recoveries. He has fumbled 25 times, including 22 in Green Bay (16 lost). Green's fumble ratio is 59.2-to-1, slightly lower than Taylor's.

"Hey, he did a good job holding on to the ball," Green said. "I mean, he should be proud of that. I would be, too, if that was my ratio."

Answering back
But Green stood up for himself.

"It's a lot different league now than when he played," Green said. "Guys do different things. They're a lot more athletic, they go more for the ball than going for the tackle now. All 11 guys are doing it every single play."

A funny twist to this comparison? Counting only the years both men wore a Green Bay uniform, Green's fumble ratio is actually slightly better than Taylor's, 61.45-to-1 compared with 60.75-to-1. Green has 1,358 touches and 22 fumbles as a Packer; Taylor had 2,012 touches and 33 fumbles for Green Bay.

With Green the center of the Packers' offensive universe, the rest of the offensive players are still seeking balance.

An important lesson was learned last week in Detroit. When the running game collapsed, the three best receivers, Donald Driver, Javon Walker and Robert Ferguson, wanted to make a big impact.

"The way our running game has been going and as successful as it's been, teams are going to figure, 'Let's try to load up on them on the run and let them beat us with the pass,' " Walker said. "That's where we come into play and we've been pretty much waiting for this challenge all year long."

Tom Silverstein of the Journal Sentinel staff and the Associated Press contributed to this report.

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