Emotional Green Runs Toward Opportunity

Alex Green made good on his goal by being on the field for the first day of training camp. Green was on the verge of breaking into the running back rotation last year until a season-ending torn ACL. Through months of rehab, Green has that opportunity again.

Alex Green got the ball, put his head down and plowed through nine long months of blood, sweat and tears.

The play, one of a few thousand that will be run during the Green Bay Packers' training camp, won't even be a footnote when the history of this team's season is written.

Still, it will mean everything when Green's history is written. One play will mark the exclamation point on one chapter of his career and the opening words of the next paragraph.

Green tore his ACL while blocking on a kickoff almost nine months ago — Oct. 23 at Minnesota, to be exact. He rehabbed with a vengeance and met his goal by being on the practice field for the first day of camp.

"I was kind of emotional the first 2 minutes when I stepped on the field again," Green said. "Just the long process that it's been, since last October, I haven't put a helmet on, hadn't put pads on, hadn't run on grass. So, it definitely felt good to be back out there, I'm definitely blessed to be in the situation I'm in. I just want to take advantage of it."

At first, Green set small goals. As he met those steps — getting his range of motion back to normal, tossing aside his crutches — he set bigger goals. In March, Green decided he would be ready for training camp. Not the first week of training camp, but the first day. Green said he's as close to 100 percent "as I can be" at this point in his comeback.

"I wouldn't say I'm less explosive," he said. "I've been training real hard. Explosiveness is one thing I really wanted to get back. I'm still at 8 months (from surgery) so I have quite a ways to go to get everything back in full, but I think I felt pretty good and explosive for the first day."

Green downplayed it, but there's a huge opportunity in front of him if he's physically and mentally. Ryan Grant, who was not re-signed in free agency, had a team-high 134 carries and was second with 155 total touches last season. That's almost 10 per game that are waiting for one of the running backs to grab hold of.

"It's great to see Alex out there, another Butte College guy," said quarterback Aaron Rodgers, alluding to the junior college that started their careers. "It's fun to have another guy in the backfield to push James (Starks) and Brandon (Saine) and some of the young guys we've got. We know what kind of a player we have in Alex. It's just a matter of him staying healthy and making the most of his opportunities. I think what you saw last year was a guy who started a little slow in camp, but really picked it up and everybody got real excited about him. And then he had the injury early in the season. So, if he can stay healthy, I think he can be a good part of our offense."

The Packers had high hopes for Green last year. Selected in the third round out of Hawaii, Green's 1,199 rushing yards were the second-most in school history, his 18 touchdowns tied a school record and his 8.2-yard average led the nation. Green, however, struggled through training camp and rushed for just 23 yards on 16 carries in the preseason. As the regular season progressed, Green began to find his stride. Before the Week 7 game at Minnesota that ended his season, the coaches decided Green would be given his shot to upgrade a running game that was only so-so with James Starks and Grant.

"Alex Green has a lot of ability," offensive coordinator Tom Clements said this week. "Before he got hurt, he was progressing to the point where he probably would have played a fair amount. He's a good runner, he's good out of the backfield – very good hands, good route runner. "

At 6-foot and 225 pounds, Green has the measurables the Packers like. His 4.55-second clocking in the 40-yard dash won't remind anyone of Ahman Green, but Green brings brute force and a hard-charging running style that fits the offense's one-cut-and-go running style.

"The one characteristic I've always liked about Alex – and it was evident having him back out here today – is how fast he plays in the hole," coach Mike McCarthy said. "When he hits it, he's top speed. He's a powerful man, and he's got excellent leg drive and does a good job running behind his pads. I think he definitely can add to our running back group."

Green is ready for the challenge. After all, he knows all about challenges. After a standout high school career in Portland, Green was forced to go the junior-college route because of poor grades. Even though he rushed for 1,037 yards in leading Butte to a national championship in 2008, no Bowl Championship Subdivision schools offered Green a scholarship. He was headed to Liberty until one of his Butte teammates got an offer from Hawaii and asked the coaches to take a look at Green. Then there was last year, the knee ruining his season and leaving him feel like he wasn't part of the team at times.

Now, the opportunity of a lifetime is at hand.

"Just thankful, for real," he said. "Just to be able to play again, get back on the field with my teammates and do what I love and do what I can to provide for my family. It's something to be proud of, coming through an eight-month process, focusing on my knee the whole time and being able to come on the field and put all the hard work to use, it definitely felt good."

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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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