Healthy Green believes he can be Packers starter at RB
MAY 17, 2013 10:33a ET
GREEN BAY, Wis. -- Under most circumstances, it wouldn't be too big of a challenge for an NFL team's leading rusher to come back the next season as the starting running back. When that player was a third-round pick only two years ago, the chances of him being a starter would typically increase.
For Alex Green, however, the Green Bay Packers' top running back from last season will have to overcome very challenging odds to achieve his goal this year.
"I want to be a starter," Green told FOXSportsWisconsin.com. "I want to be a starter; an every-down back. I don't want to come out of the game at all. I want to be in there all the time. I want to prove to myself that I can be a back in the league. I think I have that ability to be that and I'm just going to prove it to myself.
"That's how it's going to be."
Earning the starting job next season would require Green to not only beat out holdovers DuJuan Harris and James Starks, but to also outperform the two running backs that the Packers drafted in April: Eddie Lacy (second round) and Johnathan Franklin (fourth round).
"I think it's a great thing for the team," Green said. "I'm looking forward to competing with those guys in OTAs and eventually in training camp. We'll see how it goes from there."
Finishing 20th in the NFL last season in team rushing yards and 22nd in yards per carry was not going to provide the offensive balance that coach Mike McCarthy and quarterback Aaron Rodgers need. Though the Packers invested the 96th pick of the 2011 draft to add Green to the roster, McCarthy and general manager Ted Thompson decided it was time to go in a different direction with Lacy and Franklin.
Green led the Packers with 464 rushing yards in 2012 while starting only four games. Cedric Benson began the season as the starter, but his Lisfranc foot injury gave Green an opportunity to step into the featured role. After three consecutive games with 20-plus carries and inconsistent production, Green was pulled in favor of Starks. Green didn't get the ball once in the final four games (playoffs included) as Harris took over.
"I'm not satisfied with how I played last season," Green said. "I know that I can do better."
But there's a reason that Green failed to live up to expectations. The ACL injury that ended his rookie year in Week 7 was still an issue the entire next season.
"I was never fully healthy last year," Green said. "It's just one of those things. I came back early and, at the end of the day, it ended up biting me in the butt. I play football. That's what I wanted to do, that's what I'm going to do until I can't do it anymore. That's just what it was last year.
"I played hurt because I wanted to help my team out."
Green practiced throughout training camp and played during the preseason, but he wasn't recovered yet after suffering the injury 10 months earlier.
Being physically unable to reach the potential that the Packers saw in him is part of what gives Green hope that he can in fact become the team's starting running back in 2013.
"I'm at a point now where that (injury) is definitely behind me," Green said. "I didn't realize how far back I was last year until I ran this year after the offseason. Then I realized, man, I was really hurting last year. I guess I was just immune to it during the season. When you're not thinking about it, it kind of goes out of your mind and you just get used to it.
"I was at a point last year where I was just used to playing with the pain. I didn't realize how bad it was, I guess, so I kept playing more and more and it kept getting worse and worse. (It came to a point) where I couldn't play anymore, because it kept getting worse."
It's unlikely the Packers will keep all five of their current running backs on the 53-man roster this season. Last year, Green Bay kept four running backs heading into Week 1, but one of them (Brandon Saine) was used exclusively on special teams. With Lacy and Franklin practically guaranteed a spot, that could make Green, Starks or Harris the odd man out.
Green knows what he wants to accomplish. He believes he will open the season as the Packers' starting running back. But if that doesn't work out as he plans, Green just wants what's best for the team.
"End of the day, it's football," Green said. "It's the sport that I play. I'm happy with it. There's only two things that make me happy: Football and my kids. Either way, I'll be satisfied with the outcome of anything. I'm not really stressing about it.
"I'm just ready to compete and help the team out."
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