Don't Discount Old Vets Tauscher, Green

The Packers called on two old pros last season to help them out of a jam. Now, it's time to pay them back by giving them another chance to contribute in 2010. Matt Tevsh explains why signing Mark Tauscher and Ahman Green should be among the Packers' priorities.

A year ago at this time, Mark Tauscher and Ahman Green had been all but written off as NFL players.

Tauscher was rehabbing a major knee injury with a timetable of another six to eight months to go until a full recovery. Only one team during that time, the Chiefs, really showed any interest is signing the 10-year veteran.

Green was still in playing shape, but as a 32-year-old running back, he was looking at other career options. Two injury-plagued seasons with the Texans and declining production had him essentially retired.

Both seemed like long shots to return to the league, much less to the Packers, but when things went bad in Green Bay last season, the veteran duo answered unlikely calls from 1265 Lombardi Ave. As a result, both might be around together for at least another season.

Tauscher and Green are among five Packers set to become unrestricted free agents on March 5. One published report in the past week has quoted Green as saying the Packers have interest in bringing him back. The same could be true for Tauscher, if contributions in 2009 count for anything.

Perhaps not coincidentally, the Packers' season took a turn for the better with the return of the two longtime Packers — who have combined for 18 seasons in Green Bay. Tauscher was signed Oct. 12 and Green signed Oct. 21, just before the bottom almost fell out on a promising season.

Tauscher's return made all the difference. He helped steady an unsettled offensive line that played a large part in the Packers underachieving at 4-4. Pass protection was an issue on a weekly basis and third-year pro Allen Barbre, taking over Tauscher's right tackle spot from the season before, was a disaster. With only Breno Giacomini and rookie T.J. Lang behind him, the solutions were limited.

The Packers gave up 41 sacks through the first nine games of the season as the offensive line rotated players to compensate. That all changed when Tauscher was ready to play.

Mark Tauscher
Jim Prisching/AP Images
Upon Tauscher's return to the starting lineup for good Nov. 22 vs. the 49ers, the Packers gave up just 10 sacks over the last seven games. Their running game became more of a factor down the stretch. And more than anything, Tauscher gave the Packers a dependability they lacked.

Quarterback Aaron Rodgers admitted he felt more comfortable in the pocket with Tauscher in the lineup and it showed. Head coach Mike McCarthy also sang Tauscher's praises and was able to open up his offense, not having to worrying as much about pass protection as part of his game plan.

Tauscher always has been about substance over style and that was evident in 2009, even coming off his second major knee surgery. The Packers won six of the final games he started and were clearly a different team. That should at least grant him another contract offer even if the Packers find a viable candidate to replace him this offseason.

Green's return, on the other hand, was for different, if not similarly beneficial, reasons. It was more about style than substance. It was about giving the Packers what they lacked – a good short-yardage back, a dependable third-down player and someone who can run with good instincts.

Despite his diminishing skills, Green does all of those things better than the Packers' roster of running backs. And until the Packers find a younger, change-of-pace running back that can do those things, Green is their best option in a part-time role.

McCarthy took notice of those things. He gave Green the ball on third- and fourth-and-short, including in the playoffs, when Green got a key first-down run during a third-quarter scoring drive that help propel the Packers' dramatic comeback at Arizona.

In a way, Green's return made the entire running game better. Backup Brandon Jackson, sensing a push from his elder's return, seemed to play better. Starter Ryan Grant was a huge factor down the stretch and seemed to benefit from Green giving him a breather. (Green finished second among team backs with 41 carries for 160 yards in just seven games.)

On the surface, the Packers would appear to have greater offseason concerns with unrestricted free agents Aaron Kampman, Ryan Pickett and Chad Clifton. All played big roles for the Packers last season, but none quite like Tauscher's and Green's. Both were unsung heroes for the Packers in 2009 and both have plenty left in the tank to contribute in 2010.

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Matt Tevsh has covered the Packers since 1996. E-mail him at

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