Green goes about his business
His punishing style is nothing personal Thursday, August 15, 2002
Milwaukee Journal Sentinel

His punishing style is nothing personal

of the Journal Sentinel staff

Last Updated: Aug. 14, 2002

Green Bay - As he was walking off the practice field Wednesday morning, linebacker Nate Wayne gave Ahman Green a playful shove from behind.

Green turned, saw who it was, and said, "Hey, nothing personal."

Indeed, there was nothing personal about Green knocking his teammate flat on his behind during a drill. Just four days earlier, the running back did the same thing, only Philadelphia safety Blaine Bishop got a far worse deal than Wayne did.

"It's nothing but part of the game," Green said when asked if he was looking to take out defensive players for fun. "It's not personal. It's part of the job. When I run, sometimes I have to hit people. When I hit them (first), it helps soften the blow. It's all business."

Just in the small amount of contact the Packers have had in training camp, Green appears to have turned up the volume. The well-built, 6-foot, 217-pound Green has always been physical, sometimes running right at defenders instead of sidestepping them. But through continued off-season weight work and natural maturation, he seems to have found a new level of power in his running.

It's possible that his body is just fresh from not having been tackled much, but the blows he struck on Bishop and Wayne were definite message deliverers. "He's bringing it," coach Mike Sherman said. "You look in his eyes, he's possessed. Every day he comes out here and gets better and better and better. You watch that guy practice, running routes, catching the ball, trying new things, he's getting better. What a great example he is."

Last year, Green did just about everything anybody could ask of a running back. He ranked fourth in the National Football League with 1,387 rushing yards and first on his team with 62 receptions. Over the past two seasons, the only player with more total yards from scrimmage than Green's 3,715 is St. Louis running back Marshall Faulk (4,336).

Yet Green is just 25 years old and still has much to learn about being a running back and receiver. The biggest difference in his game this summer appears to be his commitment to lowering his shoulders so that he becomes a smaller target for defensive players.

His legs are so powerful and his acceleration so great that defenders often have to take him on too high. Ideally, they'd like to get their shoulders into his thighs, but when Green runs low, the meeting can result in a collision of shoulder pads.

"He's stronger and I believe playing with a lower pad level, which has been evident to me in practice and very evident to me in the game the other night," Sherman said. "He had two runs that could have broken for touchdowns. They were one arm tackle away from being touchdowns. He only had five carries and he almost broke two of them."

Green's philosophy on attacking defenders before they attack him is gleaned from watching tapes of Hall of Fame Chicago Bears running back Walter Payton. There are few backs in the modern era who initiated contact the way Payton did and Green understands why.

"When I run it's to protect myself," Green said. "Just because we're on offense doesn't mean we can't deliver a blow. So that's the way Walter Payton ran and that's the way Bo Jackson ran. That's the way some of the guys in the NFL, Eddie George, myself, and other guys run today.

"It doesn't hurt as much. It's just like Manny (Ramirez) or Barry Bonds. When they hit a 99 mph hour fastball it's going 500 feet. So the harder you hit them, the less of a blow you take."

As much as Green's hit-or-be-hit technique benefits him, it serves another purpose as well. There probably wasn't a more excited bunch of players when Wayne went down in practice than the rest of the offensive unit.

It's usually the defense that hoots and hollers after someone delivers a lick, but Green is helping turn the tables.

"It was either him or the linebacker," tight end Bubba Franks said. "Every now and then the guy will hit you just to let you know he's there. And that was one of the first times one of the offensive guys really tried to get into a defensive guy and it was fun to see, as long as no one gets hurt."

In this case, the only thing it might have hurt was some feelings, but it definitely wasn't personal.

Appeared in the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel on Aug. 15, 2002.

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