Green returns to the Packers
Now Green is back with the Green Bay Packers, volunteering to take a reduced role in exchange for the chance to write a new ending to what had been a standout career until he left Green Bay as a free agent in 2007.
Green, who has been out of football since the Texans cut him in February, signed a deal Wednesday to return to the Packers after working out for the team earlier this week.
“If I knew I was done with this sport, it’d have been over,” Green said. “No debating, no arguing, no mulling over, thinking about it. I probably would have come here and signed a 1-day contract to retire as a Packer, call it quits. But just something was missing after these past two years that I didn’t want to quite finish that way. The way my career was in Houston, I didn’t want that to basically become my legacy.”
Before signing a four-year, $23 million deal with the Texans in 2007, Green played seven seasons in Green Bay and made four straight Pro Bowl appearances between 2001 and 2004. With 8,162 career yards rushing with the Packers, the former Nebraska college star needs 46 more to surpass Jim Taylor and become the franchise’s all-time leading rusher.
It’s the second time in a week the Packers have reached into their past to add a veteran presence to their team after signing veteran right tackle Mark Tauscher last week.
The moves make it seem like the Packers are loading up for a run at the Super Bowl—the 2004 Super Bowl.
But Packers coach Mike McCarthy said the team believes Green and Tauscher still can be productive players.
“The starting point of bringing both Mark and Ahman back was they’re good football players, and that’s something we like to think we never lose sight of,” McCarthy said. “We’re very fortunate that they also have history here, so you feel good about that.”
Ryan Grant remains the team’s starting running back.
“I’m coming here to be that guy like I’ve always been, but now kind of in a secondary role,” Green said. “Which I have no problem with.”
But Green’s arrival could solidify the Packers’ third-down back position; he takes the roster spot of DeShawn Wynn, who was put on injured reserve with a knee injury, and fellow backups Brandon Jackson and practice squad player Kregg Lumpkin also have struggled to stay healthy.
Green also could revive Green Bay’s screen-pass game. It’s an area that hasn’t thrived under McCarthy, and could be an effective antidote to pass-protection problems in the first five games.
“Ahman, he always had a great feel for the screen game,” quarterback Aaron Rodgers said. “The screen game is often an underappreciated part of our offense. We call a lot of screens that you guys maybe wouldn’t know about. A lot of times, I throw to the other side or I check out of it. That’s something we’d like to incorporate a little bit more.”
But after two disappointing seasons in Houston that both ended on injured reserve with a knee injury—he rushed for 554 yards in 14 games over two years—what can Green give the Packers?
McCarthy said his lack of production in Houston wasn’t a concern.
“We have a lot of history with Ahman so we really didn’t go off of what happened with the Texans,” McCarthy said. “I know our personnel department, they stay in tune with all the players on the particular teams and particular area that each scout has. They have a grade and a definite opinion on where each individual player is, no different with Ahman Green. It was probably more just to see where he was health-wise, and we felt obviously he’d be a good fit. He has history here, he understands the offense, so the learning curve is minimal.”
Production aside, the idea of adding Green and Tauscher to the NFL’s youngest team was a plus to cornerback Charles Woodson, who said at the end of last season that the team needed more veterans.
“They get it,” Woodson said. “A lot of young guys come in, they don’t understand what you have go through at times in this league. I understand, coming from Oakland. You bring guys in here that you know are going to be hungry, guys that are going to work tirelessly to make this team better.”