For Green, Opportunity Knocks

Defensive tackle Howard Green spent the 2006 NFL season at home with his family as part of experiencing the highs and lows of an NFL career, but now he's got a chance to be a part of a solid rotation on the Vikings defensive line. See what Green had to say about his past challenges and outlook for this year.

Defensive tackle Howard Green is no rookie, and he isn't being treated like one anymore, but his first interaction with the Vikings this year was an invitation to their rookie camp, an interesting mix of draft picks, undrafted rookie free agents, and a collection of dozens of players working out on a trial basis.

Then there was Green, with two years of NFL experience – including one year as a starter – working for a contract just like dozens of rookies from various levels of college football.

"It is (hard to deal with) because you have to go through some of the things that you've been through already as a rookie. It worked out well. I appreciate them inviting me here and giving me the opportunity to even compete," Green said more than a month removed that experience.

Since then, however, he has come a long ways. While the vast majority of those other tryout players left without a contract and likely never will sign with an NFL team, Green not only signed, he's being talked about in glowing terms. Already he is being mentioned as a top backup to Pro Bowl defensive tackle Pat Williams.

When defensive coordinator Leslie Frazier was asked about the depth at defensive tackle, Green was the first player he mentioned.

"We want to find a guy who can really be a part of that rotation, and right now Howard Green is the guy we're targeting, but hopefully there will be more competition," Frazier said. "We signed him because he has the look and has the size that we're looking for, and he has some athleticism as well."

At one time not so long ago, the New Orleans Saints felt the same way about Green. In 2005, the 6-foot-2, 320-pounder started the final 10 games of the season after starting the first two of the season.

He started his career with the Houston Texans, where he was active for nine games but played in only one in 2002. In 2003, he joined the Saints.

"I just came in that camp and I just worked my butt off. They drafted Johnathan Sullivan (who is no longer in the league) the year before and he was the No. 1 pick," Green said. "We were competing for the job, and when I came back that next year, in '04, it was made known that I could very well be the starter coming into camp."

That happened about two weeks into training camp, and he went on to his most successful season to date. But 2005 brought more frustration for him, especially when he was given his pink slip without much explanation.

"For me getting released, I never saw that coming in '05 as well. They really didn't give (an explanation). I didn't ask either," he said. "I wanted to know, but it was one of those things where they were like, ‘We wanted to go another route.' I was like, "Another route? I was the route a year ago, so what other route are you going to go?' It was bad. I didn't like that at all."

The Saints and then-head coach Jim Haslett tried to give Sullivan another shot and decided Green was expendable. Last year, Green went to training camp with the Miami Dolphins but was released in the final roster trimming.

"I had a foot injury and that hindered me a little bit. It kind of slowed me down. … There were a lot of veteran guys coming in, and I was supposed to be one of those that could contribute and help, but you can't make the club in the (trainer's) tub – that's the rule," he said.

After his second season of not really contributing to an NFL club, Green found interest from the Seattle Seahawks and Minnesota Vikings. Seattle worked him out but didn't sign him. The Vikings liked his size and potential and did offer him a two-year deal that would be worth more than $1 million if he sticks with the team.

So far, Green says, things have been going well.

"It's coming around pretty good. We've got a good group of D-linemen that I'm working with here today. Everybody is showing me the ropes and kind of helping me out a little bit to adjust to everything," he said.

And the fact that he's being mentioned as a cog in the defensive line rotation is encouraging.

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