Commentary

Green-Ellis could get more time

Running back has been waiting in the wings

Updated: October 9, 2009, 8:03 PM ET
By Chris Forsberg | ESPNBoston.com

FOXBOROUGH -- The wall of television cameras and microphones in front of him suggested that life had most certainly changed for Patriots second-year running back BenJarvus Green-Ellis.

After all, with Fred Taylor sidelined for the near future after undergoing right ankle surgery Thursday, the natural assumption would be an increased role for Green-Ellis in the Patriots' offense.

But to suggest that Green-Ellis was anything but prepared to help the Patriots even before Taylor's injury would suggest that he had been waiting for someone else to open a door for him. No, Green-Ellis has been trying to kick down that door on his own since he arrived in New England.

"Life doesn't change," Green-Ellis said. "You go to work every day, work hard and run the plays."

And Green-Ellis said this week that it's really no different from the first preseason game or last week's matchup against the Ravens.

"Whatever they ask me to do, I'm going to be ready," he said.

For much of the past two seasons, the Patriots have asked Green-Ellis to wait patiently in the wings. The undrafted free agent out of Mississippi found himself at the back of a deep, veteran-filled depth chart the past two seasons, and his inability to get on the field seemingly stemmed more from numbers than talent.

As Patriots coach Bill Belichick put it Friday: "If we had 46, 47 or 48 [active] guys [on game day], we'd have [more guys] able to contribute. But we've got 45."

And that means No. 42 has come to the stadium most Sundays wondering whether he'll even get a chance to put on the uniform. But he's hardly the type to sit and lament that fact.

"Learning. That's how I take it," Green-Ellis said. "I take everything in stride and try to learn from the older guys. All those guys have been here longer than me. Laurence [Maroney] is in his fourth year, Fred [for] 12, 11 [for] Kevin [Faulk], 10 [for] Sammy [Morris]. I just try to learn from them, learn from film study, and practice hard every day."

This week especially has to feel a bit familiar for Green-Ellis. After all, it was a little more than a year ago that Maroney suffered what would emerge as a season-ending shoulder injury. That opened the door for Green-Ellis, who moved up from the practice squad to the active roster for a Week 6 game in San Diego. (He caught a 9-yard pass in a loss.)

A week later, Green-Ellis saw extended action in a lopsided victory that included him carrying the ball 13 times for 65 yards and scoring his first NFL touchdown.

That opponent? The Broncos, whom the Patriots meet Sunday at Invesco Field in Denver.

Green-Ellis brushes off the coincidence.

"Each week is different, a different defense, a different scheme, so all you can do is prepare yourself each week," said Green-Ellis. "[The Broncos are] a different team, different players. You can't look at that game now."

Green-Ellis' new chance comes at the expense of a friend. The man nicknamed "Law Firm" for his multi-part name noted that he and Maroney spent the past two nights at Taylor's home, offering encouragement to Taylor in the face of the ankle injury that could sideline him for much of the season.

Asked about Taylor's spirits, Green-Ellis said, "He's all right, but you gotta ask Fred how he's doing."

Green-Ellis knows injuries are part of the business and is ready to help fill that void if called upon. It's an all-too-familiar process in Foxborough.

"Every year we seem to have someone go down at a certain position," guard Logan Mankins said. "We've always had guys come in, replace them, and do what they have to do.

"Benny did a heck of a job last year after he came in [for Maroney]."

Green-Ellis produced a touchdown in four consecutive games starting with his efforts against the Broncos. His best game came when he carried 26 times for 105 yards and a score in a 20-10 triumph over Buffalo in Week 10.

But Green-Ellis fell quickly from the radar screen after that game, carrying just 11 times over the next four games (he did score a touchdown versus Miami in Week 12), and spent the final three weeks of the 2008 season inactive.

The offseason didn't help him shimmy up the depth chart, as the departure of LaMont Jordan was met with the arrival of Taylor. Even still, Green-Ellis shined in the preseason, rushing for a team-best 249 yards on 49 carries (a sizzling 5.1 yards per carry) and survived roster cuts to make the 53-man roster.

Green-Ellis has been inactive in three of four games this season, dressing against the Jets in Week 2, but business should pick up with Taylor's injury.

"He's a solid guy," Belichick said. "He can catch, he can run, he can block, he's a good player in the kicking game. All of the guys on the roster are valuable; they do a good job. We just can't activate all of them."

Given the small but positive sampling of Green-Ellis -- and the struggles of the injury-plagued Maroney -- some had been clamoring for Green-Ellis to join the active roster even before Taylor's injury.

Regardless of the reason, that chance may have finally arrived, and Green-Ellis is ready.

"I don't get too down on myself or too up," Green-Ellis said. "I know every day Coach says to just work hard in practice. Everything stays the same. Monday, Tuesday, Wednesday, Thursday, Friday, Saturday."

This Sunday, things could be different for Green-Ellis. Whether he likes to admit it or not.

Chris Forsberg is a reporter for ESPNBoston.com.

Chris Forsberg

Celtics reporter, ESPNBoston.com

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