Jets' patient Greene hopes to build off 3-TD game
FLORHAM PARK, N.J. (AP)
Shonn Greene had no idea what was wrong. He just knew this wasn't what he expected.
The yards were tough to come by for the New York Jets' starting running back earlier this season as the entire offense got off to a sluggish start. But this was his big chance after sitting behind Thomas Jones and then LaDainian Tomlinson his first two years.
And, he thought, there was no way he was going to blow it.
''I've pointed the finger at myself this year,'' Greene told The Associated Press on Friday. ''There were times where I was like, `Man, I need to do better. I need to do this and that much better.' I'd stay after practice every day and watch film and try to figure what was going on.''
Well, for one, he wasn't getting the ball much. And when he was, he wasn't doing much with it.
Greene averaged less than 13 carries and 40 yards in the Jets' first four games as Rex Ryan and Brian Schottenheimer focused more on the passing game with Mark Sanchez, Plaxico Burress and Santonio Holmes. After two seasons as a solid backup, though, Greene was doing little to distinguish himself as the undisputed starting running back - ''the bell cow,'' as Ryan called him.
''I think the toughest thing was just trying to get the running game going, trying to get it started,'' said Greene, coming off a career-high three-touchdown performance at Washington last Sunday. ''When you're the starting running back, you're going to get frustrated when things aren't going your way. So, that was probably the toughest part.''
Through it all, Greene has 739 yards rushing, just 28 from topping his career high set last season with four games to go.
''Really?'' Greene said, his eyes widening. ''Wow, I guess that's true.''
Not bad for a season that had such an ominous start.
Greene was aware of all the expectations people had for him, and he had the same hopes. But there was a domino effect working against him. The Jets were enamored with their passing game, the offensive line wasn't playing up to its usual high level, All-Pro center Nick Mangold was injured and Greene couldn't perform consistently.
So, doubts started seeping in from fans and media wondering if he was really capable of being a starting back in the NFL, or merely a complementary player.
''I don't look into any of that stuff at all and I don't listen to it,'' he said. ''There are a lot of people on the outside looking in that say this, that and the other. But, you know what? We're all family in here. We know what we've got and who's capable of what. So, if they didn't think I was capable of doing the job, I wouldn't be here.''
As difficult as it was, Greene stayed positive, leaning on Tomlinson, among others.
''L.T. has rushed for a lot of yards in his career and had a few years where things didn't go quite his way or not as well as he wanted, like in his last year in San Diego,'' Greene said. ''He was just like everybody else, though, telling me, `Hey, be patient.'''
The Jets went back to the run-first approach on offense in Week 5 against New England, Mangold returned from a sprained ankle to anchor the offensive line, and Greene has gradually become a force on the ground again.
''It's been a thing where not just Shonn, but the offensive line has done a great job of continuing to work on their skills and opening up the holes,'' fullback John Conner said. ''Shonn has been really patient, though. He has been practicing hard and just being him, running the ball hard.''
Despite playing with injured ribs that limited him to three carries at Denver three weeks ago, Greene ran for 88 yards and the three scores on a season-high 22 carries last Sunday.
''That was impressive,'' Ryan said. ''We'll sign up for that each week.''
For Greene, it felt like old times.
''Man, that game was just like it was when I first got here and my first two years, like it's supposed to be here, you know, `Ground-and-Pound,' right?'' he said. ''It's getting there. We're working on it, and we're getting better each game.''
The first score last Sunday came on a 1-yard run in the opening quarter as he lowered his shoulders and get across the goal line. The second came in the fourth quarter when he took a direct snap, waited a split-second for the blocking and then went up the middle for 9 yards.
''It's patience to the hole, we call it, and then speed through the hole,'' Schottenheimer said. ''You have to be patient getting to the sprint spot. Then, once it opens, you have to accelerate through it. It was just a terrific run.''
The third was a 25-yard sprint that sealed the 34-19 victory. Greene celebrated by simply tossing the ball to Mangold and then hugging his teammates.
''Oh, man, it was great,'' Greene said. ''I'm telling you, it was just a great feeling. I had only two touchdowns all year, so it was so good to get in there. Just a good overall win. I was excited, definitely fired up. I'm not even going to lie about that. I was happy, man.''
His ribs are still sore, but he doesn't care about any of that. Greene also isn't concerned that he has only one game over 100 yards rushing this season: 112 against San Diego in Week 7. The Jets are in the middle of a playoff race, and he's a big reason - again.
''Stats and all that, none of that really ever gets to me,'' he said. ''Seriously, I just want to win games. With each game, we're progressing in the run game. Hopefully we can keep the momentum going that we have now and by the end of the season, we'll be exactly where we want to be.''
Notes: WR Plaxico Burress says the Jets have what it takes to be a playoff team. ''No doubt about it,'' he said. ''I think we're one of those teams nobody's going to pay attention to.'' ... Tomlinson entered the locker room to one player blasting his ''LT Style Electric Glide'' song from his days with the Chargers. A good sport, Tomlinson laughed and then gave his teammates a brief demonstration of the moves from the song's video, which was a YouTube sensation.