Green wants to play for Packers for many years
Friday, March 23, 2001
Milwaukee Journal Sentinel
By TOM SILVERSTEIN
of the Journal Sentinel staff
Green Bay - If there was any doubt that running back Ahman Green wanted to remain a Green Bay Packer for years to come, it was probably erased when he enrolled in classes this winter at the University of Wisconsin-Green Bay.
How many people stick around Green Bay when they could afford to take courses in the Bahamas if they wanted?
Green, who arrived in a trade from Seattle last season, has found a new home. For the first time in his professional career, someone truly appreciates his running ability and wants him to stick around for a while.
"I want to stay here," said Green, who filled in for an injured Dorsey Levens last year and became the seventh 1,000-yard rusher in team history. "I like it here. I don't want to go anywhere. They know I want to be here. I've talked to them about that."
It was thought at one time Green would be reluctant to sign a long-term deal with the club if it chose to re-sign Levens. But it appears most of that talk was coming from Green's former agent, Leigh Steinberg.
"I told them I wanted to come back before Dorsey signed," Green said.
As a result, Green could be signed to a long-term deal, thereby assuring his status as the Packers' running back of the future. If Green doesn't sign beyond this season, he will become an unrestricted free agent next year and the chances of him returning will be greatly diminished.
In light of that fact, Packers negotiator Andrew Brandt will open contract discussions with agent David Dunn next week at the National Football League owners meetings in Palm Desert, Calif. Brandt said the two sides were exploring possibilities and would know more about where they stand after the meetings.
Green certainly looked like the running back of the present the last half of the 2000 season when he was fed the ball consistently. Once Levens went down for good with a knee injury, Green took off.
He rushed for 769 yards, averaging 4.4 yards per carry, and caught 45 passes for 294 yards in the final eight games, six of which were victories.
Green finished the season as the team leader in rushes (263), rushing yards (1,175), touchdowns (13) and receptions (73). He went from being a suspect in Seattle to a legitimate prospect in Green Bay.
"A lot of people didn't expect me to come in and do the job I did," said Green, who has been offered a one-year salary of $1.115 million. "I knew I had the talent and I knew if I was given the chance I could do it."
Green hasn't stopped to reflect on last season, and it's a good thing, because no sooner had he settled in as the back of the present than Levens agreed to return with a restructured contract.
Suddenly, Green is in competition again. Both are expected to play but one of them is going to have to be deemed the starter.
"We're both approaching it like professionals," Green said. "We know it's going to be competitive throughout the year. You basically have to watch that it doesn't become a personal thing. You're out there working just as hard as the other guy."
Before the competition can truly begin, Levens has to prove that two knee surgeries last year and swelling that has kept him out of the minicamp this week aren't signals that the end is near. But anyone who has followed his career knows that when he is healthy, he is the kind of back coaches refuse to take off the field.
Levens has skills
His knowledge of the scheme, soft hands and chemistry with quarterback Brett Favre make him a security blanket for the offense. Throw in the fact that he has rushed for 1,000 yards in his last two healthy seasons (1,435 in ' 97 and 1,034 in ' 99) and he could be the starter next season.
"Our defensive people had the greatest respect for Dorsey," said running backs coach Sylvester Croom, who was Detroit's offensive coordinator last season. "They really thought that when Dorsey went down (last year) that they weren't going to have much of a running attack.
"Then all of a sudden this guy pops out of nowhere and nobody really knew how good he was. And our defensive coaches were all talking about this Green kid."
Both players could be used equally, enabling Levens' pounding style to complement Green's elusive speed. If Green can improve his suspect hands, the coaches might feel comfortable using both players in any situation and, perhaps, in the backfield together.
"We were really rolling, with me and him in the backfield together or when he came in and I came in back-to-back," Green said of the early part of last season. "That really keeps the defenses honest because they know we have two NFL-caliber backs. They know they can't blitz or do certain things all the time when we have two guys as dangerous as Dorsey and me on the football field."
Appeared in the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel on March 23, 2001
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