Green's last hurrah

Bum leg probably will get best of hard-working running back

Ahman Green has provided the Packers and their fans with plenty of thrills since he was traded to Green Bay from Seattle in 2000. He has reached Pro Bowl status four times since then, but now is facing perhaps the greatest challenge of his professional career.

Green has to prove to everyone that he can be the Ahman Green that led the National Football League in rushing yards from 2000-04. The 29-year-old Green is not only battling Father Time, but also has to bounce back from an injury that is not running back friendly - a ruptured quadriceps tendon.

Asked on Monday if he can be the Ahman Green of old and he predictably answered, "No doubt at all."

The fact is, there is doubt and plenty of it, beginning and ending in Green's wounded right thigh.

That kind of injury prevents a regular guy or woman from walking without a limp at least six months after surgery. Green is a workout freak with muscles on top of muscles. He's only about four-and-a-half months removed from surgery and said that he is ready to run. Green's rehab is way ahead of schedule, thanks to a disciplined routine of about three-to-four hours a day of lifting weights and other assorted exercises at Packers headquarters.

Green may be ready to ramble as soon as training camp, but can he truly hold up from the beating he'll take as a starting NFL running back? Both the Packers and Green are not sure, so they settled on a very fair one-year contract that pays Green about $2 million this season, plus incentives of up to $3 million.

Green probably would not have gotten anything close to that kind of deal from any other team in the league because of his injury. He made the smart move of settling on a deal now, rather than after the draft and free agency when the Packers might not have as much money to spend.

For the upcoming season, the Packers have spent more than enough on Green. Because of his work ethic, there is a chance that Green will come back strong. But there's a greater chance that he will struggle in 2006 because of the injury. Other Packers have tried to come back from a quadriceps injury like Green's, but were limited, including defensive tackles Steve Warren and Santana Dotson, and linebacker Brian Williams. Though none of the three measure up to Green as far as keeping themselves physically fit, there is probably only so much Green can do to work around his injury while waiting for the surgically repaired tendon to heal.

To think that Green will be the player he was in recent seasons, simply does make sense. Even early last season when he wasn't injured, he showed signs of slowing down. Green averaged a career low of 3.3 yards per carry on 77 rushes, though, he was playing behind a restructed offensive line. But Samkon Gado also was playing behind the same restructured line and quickly became a hot commodity on the fantasy football circuit.

In fact, it wouldn't be surprising to see Gado start the season as the No. 1 running back because Green will be limited in training camp. Green doesn't see it that way.

"I'll start running real soon," Green said. "Whoever hits me for the first time in practice or in a game is not going to like me."

One thing you've got to love about Green is his attitude. That is what has made him a success in the NFL. He plays with a chip on his shoulder every down.

Green's determination and time will reveal his status heading into the season, but count on the Packers either signing a running back in free agency, or selecting one in the NFL draft. Green will have plenty of competition in camp.

To think, however, that Green will be in Green Bay beyond 2006 is not realistic. He'll be 30 years old next year at this time. In the NFL, that's retirement age for most, especially a running back. Even if he has a whopper of a season, which is doubtful, the rebuilding Packers probably will shy away from Green and go with younger backs. That's the way of life in the NFL. Everyone is expendable at some point.

For now, Green will have to prove that he's worthy of playing and regaining his starting spot. The odds are against him, but Packers fans at least will get a chance to see what Green can do for one more season. Unfortunately, Green's thigh injury probably will prevent him from running to daylight in 2006 and beyond in Green Bay.

Todd Korth is managing editor of and Packer Report. E-mail him at

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