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Green pacing the Packers

The running back has 81 first downs, second in the NFC.

By ERNEST HOOPER

© St. Petersburg Times, published December 22, 2000


Ahman Green has done the same thing in Green Bay this season he did when he was 6-months-old: hit the ground running.

Okay, he wasn't running, but he did walk at 6 months, a feat that was forecasted by the obstetrician who told Green's mother he had little baby fat and remarkably muscular legs for a newborn.

"He's always been real fast and very coordinated," said Green's mother, Glenda Scott.

The forecast for Green was much the same when he was traded from Seattle to Green Bay for cornerback Fred Vinson and a third-round pick. Although Green had fallen out of favor with Seahawks coach Mike Holmgren because of his penchant for fumbling, new Packers coach Mike Sherman was confident he could contribute.

And Sherman should have known because he was the Seahawks offensive coordinator.

"I obviously had some inside information about his ability," Sherman said. "There always was a question about him holding on to the football but that's usually something that occurs earlier in the season and diminishes as the season goes on.

"We used him in Seattle in short-yardage situations and we weren't concerned about the fumbles there. He held on to the ball and was very effective as a third-down-and-1 rusher, as he is this year."

Green has fumbled five times and lost four, including a costly turnover against the Bucs on Nov. 12 that dented the Packers' chances of a come-from-behind victory. Yet the rewards have been more than the regrets with Green.

Since starting running back Dorsey Levens played his final game of the season on Oct. 29, Green has stepped up and averaged 99.3 yards. He's also the Packers' leading receiver with 64 receptions, and has accounted for 81 first downs. Only St. Louis' Marshall Faulk (106) has produced more first downs in the NFC.

Green's abilities are deceptive. The 6-foot, 217-pounder was known primarily as a speedster during his I-back days at Nebraska, and he certainly has remained speedy. But he also runs with a lot of power. Green's blend of acceleration and strength has made him one of the best third-and-1 backs in the league. He's been given the ball 13 times in that situation and converted 12.

"He's very quick, keeps his feet moving and accelerates through the hole and looks to cut back a lot of times," Bucs linebacker Jamie Duncan said. "But the thing about it is, we have to do like we did this past game and get 11 guys to the ball and get a hat on him and make it a physical game for him."

As the statistics have swelled, so has the outlook of Green and Green Bay. The Packers have won four of their past five and five of their past seven. Remarkably, they still have a shot at the playoffs after being 5-7 on Nov. 27, and Green is a big reason why. Now he's hoping the success continues against the Bucs.

"I'll be a little bit more confident than I was in the first game," Green said. "Now I'm going to be a little bit more ready mentally, seeing their blitz, knowing who's coming and knowing what to read."

Green didn't know the trade was coming when he was peddled by Holmgren in April. He was in Miami celebrating his daughter Ahmani's third birthday when he got the call from his stepfather. He was surprised, but not angered.

"I couldn't believe it because just a couple of months earlier, in January after the loss to Miami, Coach Holmgren told me if I come in in shape and I get my plays down, I can give Ricky (Watters) a push for the starting job or be in the mix a little bit more than I was last year," Green said. "I was like that's all you have to tell me. I was getting into shape, getting my plays in my head a little better and then boom, the trade happened."

Having grown up in Omaha, Neb., Green was not unhappy about relocating from the bright lights of Seattle to the subtle lifestyle of Green Bay. In fact, he's decided to live there in the off-season and continue to hone his ability.

After breaking the 1,000-yard barrier with 161 yards against Minnesota Sunday, Green finds his name among the league's elite. He wants to keep it there, but more important, he wants to help the Packers return to glory.

"I knew what type of organization and what type of winning tradition they had way before I got here. I'm trying to help that same tradition along, getting to the playoffs and winning championships. It's a great feeling just to be here."

- Information from other news organizations was used in this report.

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