Green ready to carry the load

HOUSTON After missing most of last season with a knee injury, the four-time All-Pro running back is so eager to show what he can still do, he's caught himself going a little too hard during preseason workouts.

"That's just the way I'm built, that's just the way I play football," Green said. "Early in camp, I've got to tone down the speed a little bit. Sometimes, I get ahead of my blockers, get to a hole before it's there. I've got to gear it down every now and then -- but that's a good thing."

Green suffered a bone bruise in his left knee in the third game of 2007, and the pain and swelling lingered for months. He ended up missing all or part of 10 games.

When the Texans held a minicamp in May, the knee was healed but Green was still preoccupied with it, a dangerous mindset for a running back.

"That was the hard part, not worrying about that," said Green, who's topped 1,000 rushing yards six times in his career. "When I come running through a hole, I don't want to be thinking about that. I want to be thinking about that play."

The more reps he took, the more he put the injury out of his mind. More than three months later, Green said he's focused now on rebuilding his stamina, working with his offensive line and perfecting his technique.

Houston coach Gary Kubiak said Green had soreness in his knee on one of the first days of training camp. Kubiak asked Green if he needed a break, and Green said he was fine.

"He said, 'No, I need to work through this,' " Kubiak said. "So that was a good sign and he had a great practice."

Running backs coach Chick Harris said Green constantly asks for feedback during practices, another indicator that he's moved past the injury and mentally ready for this season.

"He's been very conscientious about how he's looked and what he's doing," Harris said. "For a guy who's been in this league for 11 years, that's a quality that you always want. He's always asking, 'Did I make the right cut? What did I do here? What could I have done better there?' You like having guys like that."

The 31-year-old Green had his best season in 2003, when he rushed for 1,883 yards and 15 touchdowns for the Packers. Green said he feels as healthy and strong as he did before the 2006 season, when he rushed for 1,059 yards.

"Physically, I feel ready to do that again," he said. "I'm not worried so much about what I do individually. As long as I do positive things for this team, all the little things, the big stuff will come. The numbers and the individual accolades will take care of themselves. I'm more focused on the team goals."

The Texans signed free agent Chris Brown to back up Green, and Chris Taylor, Darius Walker and rookie Steve Slaton are competing for playing time.

Brown has been hampered by a sore back and the others are short on experience, making a healthy Green imperative to the Texans' success this season.

"We need him, his experience and his understanding of the game," said quarterback Matt Schaub. "I don't know if he's going to run away from a lot of people, but he's going to get you the yards that he needs to get. Whatever yards are there, he's going to get them."

Harris said Green is taking about 20-22 snaps during morning workouts and Kubiak said he's limited Green's workload in the afternoons to keep his legs fresh. Kubiak is quietly confident that Green is primed for one more 1,000-yard season.

"He's been exceptional, working," Kubiak said. "Looks like he's getting ready for a big one, and I think all of us know we need a big one out of him."

Notes: Kubiak said he would probably keep WR Andre Johnson out of Saturday's preseason opener against Denver. Johnson injured his groin last Saturday and hasn't practiced since, but Kubiak said he was being "extra cautious" and that Johnson's injury was minor. ... CB Antwaun Molden sat out practice on Wednesday morning with tightness in his hip and groin. Kubiak said Molden should be ready to play on Saturday. ... Kubiak said he'll meet with his staff and decide on Wednesday night who will start against the Broncos.

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