Commentary

Shonn Greene: Run hard, balk at talk

Jets back, undeterred by sharing backfield load, saves his statements for the field

Updated: October 31, 2010, 10:30 AM ET
By Jane McManus | ESPNNewYork.com

FLORHAM PARK, N.J. -- Shonn Greene was quiet all last season. Not quiet in terms of his numbers, but literally silent. This year, once he let down his guard a bit, one of his New York Jets teammates asked him why he hadn't spoken much in his rookie season.

Green explained that he just couldn't see being a loud rookie.

"He was trying to get his bearings right and fit in," offensive lineman Brandon Moore said.

According to those who spend a lot of time around Greene, now in his second season, the Jets running back might be more talkative but he still isn't going to use a lot of words to express himself. It might be the reason why, after a costly fumble against Baltimore in the season opener, Greene changed out of uniform and dashed to his car, frustrated. He has yet to fumble again this season.

[+] EnlargeShonn Greene
AP Photo/Paul SpinelliAfter a slow start to the season, Shonn Greene hit his stride in the past three games.

"You have different types of characters on the team," said defensive lineman Mike DeVito, whose locker is next to Greene's. "You've got outward leaders, and guys that are more vocal and charismatic, and then you've got guys like Shonn that are quieter leaders but still great players and do what they do on the field on Sunday. They don't have to talk about or say how great they're going to do it. They show you, and that's what Shonn does."

One of the reasons Thomas Jones isn't with the Jets this season is that he wasn't ready to let Greene become the feature back. LaDainian Tomlinson came in and said he was happy to fill whatever role the Jets assigned him, but his performance was resurgent, and Tomlinson now has 92 carries for 490 yards while Greene has 71 carries and 323 yards.

"I've been a team player forever," said Greene, who played at Iowa. "I've been like that since college, split time with some backs in college."

Where Greene is quiet, Tomlinson is engaged and candid. By adding a second act to his storied career, the 31-year-old has gotten a great deal of attention in the New York media, but if Greene resents this in any way, you'd be hard-pressed to find evidence.

"I think Shonn's great," Jets coach Rex Ryan said. "I really think when we brought in [Tomlinson], it was to have that one-two punch. We had a similar thing with Thomas, although I think it never went as fast as maybe we would've liked it to have last year because Shonn had some injuries. Now, it's a perfect situation with both of these guys. It really is a one-two punch. Can they both get their carries? Will it balance out or whatever? We just care about winning and, I think at the end of the day, that's all we really care about."

Ryan said he didn't foresee sitting Tomlinson to preserve him for the postseason, but would have the older back do less work in practice during the week so that Tomlinson would be fresh for games.

"I think both those guys are going to have more of a presence as the season goes on," Ryan said.

If "Hard Knocks" had been filmed a year earlier, Greene might have been the John Conner of training camp. Greene was impressive last season despite rib and ankle injuries, impressive enough that the front office didn't see Jones as a must-have player despite a good deal of public criticism when the veteran signed with Kansas City.

Green's performance in the playoffs was what did it, although a rib injury took him out of a loss to the Colts in the AFC title game. There was some concern that he would have a tough time being the feature back given his running style and past injuries, but that hasn't been the case this season.

Instead, Greene has apparently settled into a new system, one that includes having a pretty bright star to co-exist with and learn from. But he seems to be managing a potentially frustrating situation with aplomb.

"Whenever my number is called I do what I can to help the team out," Greene said.

Said quietly, and you can see him backing it up on the field.

Jane McManus is a columnist for ESPNNewYork.com. Follow her on Twitter.

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Jane McManus has covered New York sports since 1998 and began covering football just before Brett Favre's stint with the Jets. Her work has appeared in Newsday, USA Today, The Journal News and The New York Times. Follow Jane on Twitter.

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