Greene believes he can still be Jets' leading man

Associated Press Modified: August 23, 2012 at 11:15 am •  Published: August 22, 2012
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FLORHAM PARK, N.J. (AP) — Shonn Greene knows he's not flashy, speedy or a scoring machine.

The New York Jets running back sure knows how to hurt people, though. On both sides of the ball.

"He's a beast," left guard Matt Slauson said with a laugh Wednesday. "He runs hard and inflicts pain not only on defensive linemen, but offensive linemen when he's behind you. He doesn't care where the hole's at. He's going to make a hole."

Greene is the opposite off the field, a quiet guy who's soft-spoken and humble. Not exactly what you'd expect from a 5-foot-11, 225-pound bruiser.

"He runs with a purpose, and fortunately, he has never hit me," left tackle D'Brickashaw Ferguson said. "I make sure I stay out of his way because when the train is coming, you want to make sure you're off the tracks."

The 27-year-old Greene was once the young guy in the Jets' backfield, waiting his turn behind Pro Bowl running backs such as Thomas Jones and LaDainian Tomlinson. Now in his fourth season, he's the grizzled veteran and fully intent on being the leading man of new offensive coordinator Tony Sparano's "Ground-and-Pound" approach on offense.

Greene was the starter for the Jets (No. 17 in the AP Pro32) last season as Tomlinson was shifted to a third-down role. He ran for a career-high 1,054 yards and six touchdowns on 253 carries. He also averaged 4.2 yards per carry, but some fans and media wonder if he can truly be the "bell cow," as coach Rex Ryan labeled him last season.

"I think my role is just being able to do whatever it is that they tell me to do," Greene said. "Whether that's carrying the load, I'm going to do that. If it's playing first and second downs, or just third downs, whatever. I'll do it. I think we have the right backs and the right personnel to get the job done."

Greene has followed in a recent line of Jets running backs who always seem to say the right things, going from Hall of Famer Curtis Martin to Jones and then to Tomlinson. Now, he'd like to have the sort of success they enjoyed.

"I think people are waiting for me to take that torch," Greene said, "and take what I've learned from them with my ability and move forward with this group."

But, with Maurice Jones-Drew unhappy in Jacksonville, some Jets fans have put the elusive back at the top of their wish list because, they say, Greene can't handle the rigors of being an every-down, No. 1 back.

"I don't pay any mind to that stuff," Greene said. "Everything that's said outside, they're entitled to their opinion. It's one of those things where with fans, they want to see the this, the that, the long runs, the touchdowns.

"My style really is pretty much this: Feed me as the game goes and I'll go and go and go. I just play to my ability, man."

Greene carried the ball 19 or more times in six games last season, running for 562 yards — an average of nearly 94 a game. His career average when carrying the ball at least that many times is 99.4 yards in nine games. So, it makes sense that the Jets might want to keep giving him the ball. Even Sparano has suggested that Greene could see more than 300 carries this season.

"Yeah," Greene said, smiling. "Well, hopefully it works out like that."

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