The play was memorable only because of the holding call on tight end Jermichael Finley, one of eight penalties the Green Bay Packers were flagged for in Friday’s Family Night scrimmage.
It wiped out a forgettable run to the left by Alex Green, the second-year running back.
Except that even two days later, the play stuck out in Mike Neal’s mind. For it was Neal, the Packers defensive end, who was chasing Green toward the sideline.
“I saw him flash in my face, and he kind of stopped and gave me a little head nod,” Neal said. “I was able to chase him out of bounds, but I was like, ‘OK, he’s trying to juke me.’ And he was very elusive.”
He had only one other touch in the scrimmage. Not yet nine months removed from reconstructive left knee surgery to repair the torn anterior cruciate ligament he sustained against Minnesota last Oct. 23, Green remains on a strict snap count.
That he’s getting any snaps at all so soon after his surgery is something of an upset. He was cleared by doctors to start training camp with the rest of the team on July 26 just eight months and three days following his injury, which occurred while blocking on a kickoff return.
In that game against the Vikings, Packers coach Mike McCarthy had planned to get Green more involved in the offense. He had a short list of plays on his call sheet that would have featured Green, the third-round draft pick from Hawaii, but Green got hurt before they could be employed.
Green either doesn’t know or wouldn’t say when he will be taken off the snap count but even if he’s limited to begin the season, it has become apparent that he will be more involved in the offense than he was last season. With Ryan Grant not re-signed, James Starks has gotten the starter’s workload and second-year pro Brandon Saine and rookies Marc Tyler and Du’ane Bennett also have gotten significant reps.
But Green may be the most talented back on the Packers’ roster. Of that group, Starks was the only other player who entered the NFL as a draft pick. He was a sixth-round pick in 2010. Saine, Tyler and Bennett all were signed as undrafted free agents. Saine spent the first seven weeks of last season on the practice before being promoted to the roster following Green’s injury. Tyler and Bennett both are rookies.
“Alex can generate speed and can stop and cut just as fast as any back that we’ve got,” Neal said.
The 6-foot, 225-pound Green could be a candidate for the all-important third-down back job if he can master the blocking aspect. He has the ability both to run the ball and catch it out of the backfield, which he did in Hawaii’s spread offense. But before he can do any of that, he needs to continue to build his confidence in his knee. To do that, he needs more reps, but the doctors won’t let him go full bore yet.
“I feel as close to (100 percent) as I can at this time frame in the process,” Green said Sunday. “I’m not to nine moths yet. I know it takes nine to 10 to 11 (months) to feel 100 percent. At about the end of eight, I feel pretty good.”
Neal wasn’t the only member of the Packers’ defense to notice Green.
“You can tell he’s determined to get back in the mix,” said cornerback Davon House, who was in Green’s draft class last year. “He’s running hard, reckless and really has a good stiff arm. He loves to use it, too. We’ve seen it a lot.”
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