The rags-to-riches story of Green Bay Packers defensive lineman Howard Green last season is almost too good to be true and stretches the bounds of believability.
Green was cut by the New York Jets last October because he weighed too much. Within hours the Packers claimed him off waivers, and days later Green helped the Packers shut out the Jets in a late October regular-season game.
Vindication was sweet, but the story got better.
The Packers have appreciated the very thing the Jets fired Green for — his considerable girth. Green’s big body and run-stopping ability was considered a blessing in Green Bay and he became a valuable part of the Packers’ Super Bowl run.
Once in the championship game, Green’s story only got better.
Green rushed Steelers quarterback Ben Roethlisberger in the first half and hit him as he was releasing a pass. The resulting errant throw was intercepted by Nick Collins and returned for a touchdown, a crucial play in the Packers' 31-25 victory.
“I guess the Jets felt he wasn’t what they needed,” said Packers defensive lineman B.J. Raji. “We’re grateful he was what we need. He came in and played well for us, and the rest is history.
“He was a huge part of our Super Bowl success. Hopefully he’ll continue to be a great part of our success.”
It was as if Green fell into the Packers’ laps at just the right time.
The Packers were looking to give Raji and Ryan Pickett some help stuffing the run and eating up blocks.
“It kind of fit a need for us right at that point in time,” said defensive coordinator Dom Capers. “One thing about this league, if you get to where you aren’t very big up front and people can pound you running the football, it affects the whole shooting match.”
In other words, it never hurts to have an extra big body on the roster. Green is listed at 340 pounds, although it’s believed he weighs more than that.
Unlike the Jets, the Packers aren’t stressing about numbers on a scale. They’re more concerned with what Green can do on the field.
“It’s funny how things go in this league,” said Capers. “I don’t know whether it was the weight issue that (the Jets) got frustrated with. Sometimes you just have to be careful not to draw a line in the sand.”
Green didn’t report to training camp this summer in tip-top physical condition, which isn’t unusual for a man his size. It also didn’t help that the NFL lockout prevented the Packers from having any offseason contact with players.
“When big guys get away from you, you always worry about them,” said Packers defensive line coach Mike Trgovac. “When they’re away from the facility they have a tendency to (fall out of shape).”
But Trgovac isn’t worried about Green based on what he’s seen in training camp so far.
“(He’s) working hard to get into shape,” said Trgovac. “He didn’t come back so far out of shape that you’re looking at him like a huge mountain to climb.”
While he was initially angry when the Jets dumped him, Green has gotten over it. He harbors no resentment and has no desire to gloat.
“It’s business,” said Green. “They felt like it was something they had to do.
“It was time for me to go and this is where I need to be and this is where I should be. I’m here now and happy to be a Packer.”
Green plays mostly at end but is also getting reps at nose tackle. While other defensive linemen have fallen down with injuries in training camp, Green has remained steady.
It’s apparent Green feels at home with the Packers and is grateful to finally feel wanted by his employer. In return, he will attempt to move mountains if that’s what the Packers ask.
“He knows he can plug me in anywhere he needs me at anytime,” Green said of Trgovac.
Things couldn’t have turned out any better since landing with the Packers, according to Green.
“It was pretty sweet,” he said. “Real sweet deal. I’ll take it.”
Not surprisingly, the Packers feel the same way about Green.
firstname.lastname@example.org and follow him on Twitter @MikeVandermause.