Green and Packers: A Blessing For Both

Where would the Packers be without Howard Green? And where would Green be without the Packers? Position coach Mike Trgovac considers it a "blessing" to coach the likable journeyman defensive lineman, who got a "real job" to keep in shape for the season.

Without Howard Green, the Green Bay Packers might not have reached the Super Bowl, much less won it.

But that's not why defensive line coach Mike Trgovac considers himself "blessed" to be coaching the 340-ish-pound journeyman.

"Howard is a fantastic human being," Trgovac said after practice last week. "In the NFL, if you've got good size and you work hard and you do what the coaches ask you to do, you find a roster spot. He's been able to do that throughout his career. He's a perfect example of that."

Green was a godsend for a Packers defense in need of bodies due to injuries last season. Green was released by the Jets and had almost completed his 18-hour drive back to his mother's house in Prairieville, La., when the Packers called upon claiming him off waivers on Oct. 27. Green Bay had just beaten the Vikings on Oct. 24 despite having just three linemen active that night after Cullen Jenkins was injured during warm-ups and Ryan Pickett aggravated an ankle injury seven plays into the game.

At the time, Green thought he might be only a stopgap solution. Instead, Green — who hadn't started a game since 2004 — started six games for the Packers. Three of those came in the playoffs, including the Super Bowl.

"It was a great way to end that season," Green said on Monday. "That's what we all play this game for is to chase a championship. We obviously did that, so I was satisfied with the way last year went. My mom always says, ‘Good things happen to good people,' (and) ‘Good things happen to those who wait.' I think all of that came into play for me. I went into the right situation and was able to be productive and help my team win."

In the Super Bowl, he was part of one of the big plays of the game when his hit on quarterback Ben Roethlisberger resulted in Nick Collins' interception. At the time, Green thought he had sacked Roethlisberger and hoped he'd forced a fumble. Instead, Collins raced the other way for a touchdown that gave Green Bay a 14-0 lead. He's seen the play only a few times — all in the film room with Trgovac and his linemates.

It's clearly the biggest play of the career for a man who's been released 10 times since entering the league in 2002.

"Yeah, I would say so," he said. "It's me being blessed to be in the NFL as long as I have. That's a memorable play and that's a blessing. I'm honored, grateful, and looking for many more."

He'll get that chance. Green Bay is Green's ninth NFL stop but he should have some staying power this time. Green's strength is stopping the run, and that's always the starting point for defensive coordinator Dom Capers. After playing only end after his midseason crash course in Capers' scheme, he's also working at nose tackle to save starter B.J. Raji some wear and tear. His role as a respected voice and mentor only solidifies the 32-year-old's positioning on the roster.

"He was a huge part of our Super Bowl run, our season," Raji said. "From the time he was added to this team, he has been nothing but a positive influence. He's a great leader. He's tremendous in the run game and made one of the biggest plays in the Super Bowl that no one talks about."


Howard Green blows through the Steelers line on his game-changing play.
Jason O. Watson/US Presswire
"Oh, man, all the experiences — like this past weekend at the game," said defensive end C.J. Wilson, a seventh-round pick last year. "When I'd get to the sideline, he could tell me what I did wrong or how to do it better because he's been around so long. Him and Pick are great guys to have around because they're so experienced and they calm you down when you're rattled."

The role of mentor is something Green embraces.

"I try to pass on some veteran leadership and different techniques," he said. "That's what I'm here for: to pass on information, because somebody passed that information onto me as I was a young player. It's keeping the trend going. We d-linemen, it's a big fraternity. We keep each other going."

Green is working his way into game shape, including extra work in the Don Hutson Center on days when he and Pickett have a limited role in 11-on-11 drills, but Trgovac was pleasantly surprised at Green's conditioning. That's because, in addition to working out during the lockout, Green worked for a longtime friend's lawn service, doing everything from operating a push mower to using an ax.

"He wasn't paying me, though," he said with a laugh.

Green knows what it's like to work. He wasn't a first-round pick. He's never been a star. He's a role player who's been deemed expendable again and again during his career. Each time, Green kept plugging away and praying for another chance. He never gave up, even after being out of the league in 2005 and 2006.

"Howard came in and filled a great need for us," Trgovac said. "I'm sure he was happy to get the ring. It worked out well both ways. I'm blessed that I was able to coach such a fine human being. He was tremendous with our young guys. He's been a guy that's been cut and finding out how he's going to feed his family."

He's got a new family with the Packers. Away from home, Green lived in a hotel during his three months in Green Bay and spent Thanksgiving with Pickett's family.

Given the abrupt ending to his tenure with the Jets, Green had — and has — plenty to be thankful for.

"I was mad," Green said, recalling his drive from New York to Louisiana. "You get all that built-up emotion. You get upset. But I had to move on and say, ‘OK, what's next? What's the next thing?' You have to have that kind of skin in this business. Just like if you mess up on one play, you've got to forget about it and move onto the next one. Then I got a phone call in the next couple of hours, and here I am."


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Bill Huber is publisher of Packer Report magazine and PackerReport.com and has written for Packer Report since 1997. E-mail him at packwriter2002@yahoo.com, or leave him a question in Packer Report's subscribers-only Packers Pro Club forum. Find Bill on Twitter at twitter.com/packerreport.


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