Packers lose Green for year with thigh tear

Updated: October 24, 2005, 9:11 PM ET
Associated Press

GREEN BAY, Wis. -- The Green Bay Packers are losing playmakers even faster than they're losing games.

Running back Ahman Green is the latest casualty. He was lost for the season with a ruptured right thigh tendon Sunday, when the Packers blew a 17-point lead and lost to the NFL's most beleaguered team, the Minnesota Vikings.

Running Back
Green Bay Packers

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2005 SEASON STATISTICS
Rush Yds TD Rec Yds TD
77 255 0 19 147 0

On Monday, coach Mike Sherman glumly announced that Green will undergo surgery this week and that wide receiver Robert Ferguson will miss up to a month with a torn lateral cruciate ligament in his left knee.

That leaves the Packers (1-5) without their top two running backs and three of their top receivers as they head into a brutal stretch in which they face Cincinnati, Pittsburgh, Atlanta, Minnesota and Philadelphia.

Brett Favre's arsenal now features third-down back Tony Fisher, who has rushed for 20 yards on 14 carries this season, and newcomer ReShard Lee (seven carries for 7 yards) and a receiving corps that consists of 5-foot-8 kick returner Antonio Chatman (10 catches) and former practice squad member Jamal Jones (zero catches) behind Donald Driver, who will surely see more double teams.

"We're all filling each other's shoes right now," Driver said.

Green is the fourth key player to sustain a season-ending injury, joining Pro Bowl wide receiver Javon Walker (ACL), backup running back Najeh Davenport (ankle) and rookie receiver/returner Terrence Murphy (neck).

"Oh, it's a big loss. That's our star running back and they always say we've got to establish the running game," Driver said.

Coach Mike Sherman maintained his stance that the Packers, who haven't had a losing season since 1991, won't cash it in now. And why should they? They play in the league's worst division with Detroit and Chicago atop the NFC North at 3-3.

Asked if Green's injury was the final straw, however, general manager Ted Thompson retorted: "I don't think we're in a position where we think about having our backs broken. This is the NFL. Things like this happen in the NFL. Obviously, we're very sad that a player, especially a quality player like Ahman Green, gets hurt like that. But there's nothing you can do. You can't cry in your milk. You pick yourself up and try to help your team as much as you can.

"I think this team is still playing hard. We lost a tough game and obviously everybody is down in the dumps. But this is a big man's league and you have to at like big boys and keep plugging along."

Thompson, who will have two roster spots open when Green goes on injured reserve, spent the day searching for plug-ins at wide receiver and running back.

"We'll look at any avenue possible," he said.

Green, who struggled this season after four straight trips to the Pro Bowl, went down hard on his right knee when he was tackled by linebacker E.J. Henderson with 8 minutes left and was carted off the field. He sustained the same injury on Oct. 3 and sat out the following game. He gained 49 yards on 16 carries against the Vikings.

For the season, Green had 255 yards on 77 carries for a career-low 3.3-yard average and no touchdowns -- not the type of season anybody expected out of the 28-year-old Green in a contract year who was just two seasons removed from a 20-touchdown performance in 2003.

Thompson said he didn't know when Green would have his operation or who would perform it but was told by his medical staff that Green would likely be able to return to action by next summer.

"It's not an unusually difficult procedure," Thompson said. "The rehab can be long and difficult but Ahman's a tough guy and I'm sure he's going to do fine."

Like Davenport, Green isn't under contract for next season. But Thompson said he'd rather focus on Green's recovery than the financial ramifications for all involved.

"He's a big part of our team and we're heartbroken that he's not going to be able to play," Thompson said. "But we want to make sure he gets back healthy and running like he always has."

In his only other NFL start, on Dec. 8, 2002, Fisher ran for 96 yards on 25 carries against the Vikings.

"He's been a very resilient, reliable back for us," Sherman said. "He's not Ahman Green, but he is a different type of back and somebody we're going to have to lean on."

As for Ferguson, he said he hopes to play this weekend even though he couldn't bend his injured knee Monday.

"I've talked to a lot of people about it and out of the four [knee] ligaments, if you had to choose one to get injured, that's definitely the one because it heals faster than the rest," Ferguson said. "But the bright side of all this is it's not ripped off the bone. I still have a little string hanging on, from what I saw.

"So, there's a glimmer of hope."


Copyright 2005 by The Associated Press