Packers are going to miss Green
Monday, March 5, 2007

Mike Vandermause column: Packers are going to miss Green

March 5, 2007

No one should feel sorry for Ahman Green after the veteran running back signed a lucrative free-agent contract with the Houston Texans on Sunday.

But Green deserved better from the Green Bay Packers.

Green served as a loyal soldier for seven years in Green Bay, yet the Packers weren't willing to reward him for his efforts and let him walk.

Loyalty works both ways, and in this case, the Packers couldn't come close to matching the Texans' respect for Green's talents.

Green will go down as one of the best running backs in team history, but in the end, that didn't matter to the Packers.

Green rushed for more than 1,000 yards six times, a remarkable achievement considering just four Packers backs in the 26 years before Green's arrival surpassed the 1,000-yard mark.

Green has been so good for so long that he amassed 8,162 career rushing yards, just 45 yards shy of Jim Taylor's team record. He accumulated more yards from scrimmage (10,870) than any player in Packers history.

What's not to like about Green? No one could question his superior work ethic. He wasn't flashy and didn't call attention to himself. Over-the-top touchdown celebrations weren't part of his repertoire. He went about his job humbly and consistently.

While some players would have complained about living in the shadow of quarterback Brett Favre, Green didn't seem to mind. He never threw a tantrum over not getting the ball enough.

As an added bonus, Green never complained about his contract and never threatened to hold out. Fans surely could appreciate that after enduring messy public squabbles involving the Packers and malcontents Mike McKenzie and Javon Walker.

In an era when pro athletes shamelessly prop themselves up and make contract demands in public, Green was a throwback.

So, what did that team spirit do for Green? It earned him a hefty four-year, $23 million contract, but he was forced to shop the NFL's unrestricted free-agent market to find it.

It doesn't seem right that after all Green did for the Packers, the team wasn't willing to give him his due.

The Packers will argue the NFL is a business, and the Texans simply put a higher value on Green than they were willing to pay. It became apparent the Packers were leery of shelling out big bucks to a player who just turned 30, an age when many running backs hit the wall.

But Green proved he was no ordinary back. He overcame a potential career-ending ruptured quadriceps tendon injury in 2005 and gained 1,059 yards last season. He remained a valuable asset to the offense with his pass-catching ability. He didn't look like a player in decline.

Even his reputation as a fumbler was more fiction than fact. Green had fewer career fumbles per touch than Taylor, whom many regarded as sure-handed.

For some reason, Green's skills were taken for granted, if not by the team, then certainly by many fans. As free agency approached, the possibility of the Packers losing Green never generated an outcry.

Now that Green is gone, the Packers will find out how valuable he was. The prospect of leaving the backfield in the hands of some untested rookie draft pick, a mediocre free-agent pickup or holdover Vernand Morency is unsettling.

The Packers had the money and should have been willing to pay a premium to keep Green, who will be sorely missed.

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