Shonn Greene ready to step up

Updated: June 17, 2011, 11:32 AM ET
By Rich Cimini | ESPNNewYork.com

His coaches believe he's ready for the job, and so does the teammate whose opinion matters most, LaDainian Tomlinson. The question is, how does Shonn Greene feel about moving into the role of feature-back on the New York Jets?

"Expect a lot of production," Greene said Thursday in a phone interview with ESPNNewYork.com.

Take that as a thumb's up.

After playing in the shadow of Thomas Jones and Tomlinson in his first two seasons, Greene was all but handed the starting job in April, when Rex Ryan declared the 230-pound back "ready to be that bell cow." A week later, Tomlinson endorsed the move, saying Greene "is ready to take on that role."

That meant a lot to Greene, who will be in the unusual position of playing ahead of a future Hall of Famer. Now that's pressure.

"It is," he admitted, "but I'm a football player and I accept the challenge. It does kind of feel weird, being the player he is, but I'm going to take on the job."

The roles haven't been clearly defined, but Greene figures to be the featured back, with Tomlinson becoming the third-down back -- a job he gladly accepts. Second-year runner Joe McKnight and rookie Bilal Powell, a fourth-round pick from Louisville, will have complementary roles.

A year ago, it was widely assumed that Greene would be No. 1 after an impressive finish to his rookie season, but he never was anointed. Ryan made it an open competition and, sure enough, Greene was outplayed in training camp by the aging Tomlinson, who carried the load for the first half of the season. Greene admitted he was frustrated early in the year.

This time, Greene received a public vote of confidence from his head coach, and he appreciated it.

"It was great and that meant a lot to me because it shows they have a lot of confidence in me, in what I can do and how I can help this team get to the next level," he said.

Greene also was touched by Tomlinson's support.

"Oh, it means a lot," he said. "I can't even explain that, coming from a guy of his stature."

Greene, who rushed 185 times for 766 yards last season (4.1 average), could see his workload increase by 100 attempts. Keep in mind that only seven backs exceeded 300 carries last season. Despite a history of nagging injuries, he has no doubt about his ability to handle that much.

"That's the type of back I am: The more I get the ball, the better I get," said Greene, who participated in this week's "Camp Lockout" -- three days of player-organized workouts in New Jersey. "I'm willing to take that challenge head on."

Aside from being named the starter, Greene will head into his third season with another new role -- father. His son was born seven months ago, and he's looking forward to his first Father's Day. In keeping with the dad thing, he landed a gig as a spokesman for Pampers diapers, which used Drew Brees in a similar role last season.

Greene, 25, said he was buying Pampers before the endorsement opportunity came along. If his coach were Bill Parcells, he'd probably hear a diapers analogy. The old coach liked to tease newly-promoted starters, with something like, "Time to take the diapers off."

Said Greene: "I can't wait for the season to start."

Rich Cimini covers the Jets for ESPNNewYork.com.

Rich Cimini

ESPN New York Jets reporter

SPONSORED HEADLINES

EDITORS' PICKS

MORE NFL HEADLINES