He looked odd in No. 34, but Ahman Green was back home.
Green, 32, signed a one-year contract before the start of Wednesday’s practice and spent the time that was open to reporters playing outside linebacker for the "look" team lining up against the offense. He did catch a couple of passes during "routes on air," in which all of the eligible receivers on a play are thrown a ball by a quarterback or another play or coach.
To make room for Green, who is wearing No. 34 rather than the No. 30 he wore during his seven seasons in Green Bay, the Packers placed DeShawn Wynn on injured reserve with a knee injury.
It was Green’s first time on a football field since suffering a minor knee injury that ended his season in Houston 11 months earlier.
"Did I miss it? That’s an understatement,” Green said. “A lot of guys, I know them, I know their families, some of the coaches I know. I was a big cog in the wheel when myself was here in ’06 and ’05 and ’03 and ’04, stuff like that. Yeah, just the cameraderie I built with the guys here, when I walked back in here on Monday from my workout, I could see that feeling. It was a great feeling."
The interest in adding a veteran running back made sense. Playing his first game since suffering a high ankle sprain in the preseason, Brandon Jackson touched the ball only three times against Detroit and was benched after a fourth-quarter fumble. Neither Jackson nor Wynn, who missed Sunday with the knee injury, has proven to be durable.
Simply having someone reliable so starter Ryan Grant isn’t taking a pounding in the final minutes of a blowout victory would be appealing. And that Green has a history as a capable receiver would be appealing, as well.
Green almost certainly won’t play on Sunday at Cleveland but perhaps the following week against Minnesota.
“I think time will answer that question,” McCarthy said. “Really I would like to see him tomorrow in pads. I thought he looked good today. I know the personnel staff, Edgar Bennett, everybody involved with his workout on Tuesday felt that he looked good, but there is always the question of football shape. That’s something you have to take the time to see where the players is. We’ll have a full padded practice tomorrow. We’ll probably have a lot better indication.”
The signings of Green and Mark Tauscher are departures from the Packers’ usual way of doing business. The Packers opened the season as the NFL’s youngest team but have added two established veterans in the last couple weeks.
“I think it just says how valuable those veteran guys are and their leadership and just their presence in the locker room,” quarterback Aaron Rodgers said. “It’s been great having Mark back. I’ve been joking with him a lot since he got back and always were close when he was here. It’s nice to see him back and healthy and hopefully going to be able to help us out at some point. Ahman, get him up to speed and get him ready to play as soon as possible to help us out, as well. It’s good to have both of those guys back as players, because they’re very talented players, but also as people.”
With Green re-signed, the Packers have regained the services of the second-leading rusher in the 90-year history of the franchise.
Starring for the Packers from 2000 through 2006, Green rushed for 8,162 yards, a figure that trails the legendary Hall of Famer Jim Taylor by 45 yards. Green holds team records for most 1,000-yard seasons (six), most consecutive 1,000-yard seasons (five), most yards in a single season (1,883 in 2003), most 100-yard games (33), most 100-yard games in a season (10 in 2003), most consecutive 100-yard games (four in 2003) and longest run from scrimmage (98 yards vs. Denver on Dec. 28, 2003). He owns the two biggest single-game rushing totals, with 218 yards vs. Denver in that 2003 game and 92 yards vs. Philadelphia on Nov. 10, 2003.
Green, a Pro Bowler from 2001 through 2004, ruptured the quadriceps tendon during an early-season game at Minnesota in 2005. Green returned in 2006 with a one-year contract, rushing for 1,059 yards and catching 46 passes.
Green then signed a lucrative four-year contract with the Houston Texans but he played only 14 games there due to injuries. He played in eight games last season, spent the final month on injured reserve with a knee injury and was released in February.
"Was I surprised?” Green said about returning. “No. I kind of expected it, because I’ve been here for a while, they knew what I could do. The only question was if I was healthy and if I was in shape. And part of my job was making sure I stayed in shape during the offseason. Because I got released in February of this offseason, so that was basically my time to focus on myself getting in shape and if I was serious about coming back, I’ve got to be in shape to do it so if anybody’s calling, not just Green Bay, but I had St. Louis calling, I worked out there. So my job at the time of where I was was to make sure I’m in shape."
As it stands, fullback John Kuhn remains the owner of No. 30. That may or may not change. Walter Payton, who wore No. 34 in Chicago, was Green's favorite player.
"Hopefully something can be worked out," he said. "The fans remember me as three-zero, but I was 34 all through high school. The only reason I got changed was at Nebraska, and I didn’t even ask for 30. They gave it to me. So it kind of stuck with me. To finish in 34 would be kind of ironic, seeing as that’s one of my favorite guys on the playing field."
As for Wynn, McCarthy wasn’t sure if it was a season-ending kind of injury but it was serious enough that it required surgery.
“It’s really something that he has had for some time as far as a certain condition, but then it flared up on him in training camp,” McCarthy said. “It settled down and he was able to play, and I thought he was out of the woods personally. I just feel terrible for DeShawn. I think the path he has taken, the things he has accomplished so far, I really thought he was going to be a big factor for us this year. So he had another setback last week after the Monday practice coming off the bye, and Pat McKenzie did the surgery this morning at 9 a.m.”
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Bill Huber is publisher of Packer Report magazine and PackerReport.com and has written for Packer Report since 1997. E-mail him at firstname.lastname@example.org, or leave him a question in Packer Report’s subscribers-only Packers Pro Club forum. Find Bill on Twitter at twitter.com/packerreport and Facebook under Bill Huber.