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Green Closes In On Record


Fittingly enough, the two greatest rushers in Green Bay Packers history met in the place where football greats are remembered: Canton, Ohio.

Technically Nos. 1 and 7 in terms of career rushing yardage at the time, when Jim Taylor came face to face with Ahman Green before the Packers' preseason-opening exhibition game at the Pro Football Hall of Fame last August, the respect was mutual.

"I can't say much, but it was an honor," Green said Thursday of meeting the Hall of Fame fullback. "He just gave me a lot of confidence, told me what a good job I've been doing the past few years since I've been here."

But as good as Green had been in his first three Packers seasons, his best was yet to come.

Now 12 games into his sixth professional campaign and fourth season in Green Bay, Green (5,185 yards) has a long way to go -- 3,022 yards, to be exact -- before he can eclipse Taylor (8,207 yards) as the all-time leading rusher in Packers history.

But with four regular-season games remaining and 1,383 yards already earned, Green is at the doorstep of Taylor's single-season rushing record of 1,474 yards, established in 1962.

And it won't be long until Taylor's mark is long behind him.

With eight 100-yard games to his credit in 2003, Green quite likely could pick up the 92 necessary yards this Sunday against the Chicago Bears at Lambeau Field.

But regardless of when Green reaches the top, in doing so he'll wipe out a record that's stood for more than four decades -- the longest-standing single-season rushing record among NFL teams, not to mention a record that Taylor was ready to relinquish long ago.

"I didn't think it would last this long at all," said Taylor, who etched his mark during an era when NFL seasons were only 14 games long. "One-hundred yards a game is not a whole lot and then you can get the (extra carries in a 16-game season). I would have thought it would be broken much before now."

The only other time a running back got within sniffing distance of Taylor's single-season standard was 1997, when Dorsey Levens -- thanks in large part to a then-record 190-yard effort that season -- came up just 39 yards shy.

But while Levens clearly benefited from the elongated schedule, Green is running almost step for step with Taylor's record pace.

In 1962, Taylor averaged 5.41 yards per attempt in his 272-carry season. Green to this point is averaging 5.27 yards per attempt with 262 carries thus far.

He'll need to break a sizeable run early against the Bears if he's to eclipse Taylor's mark in as many carries, but if not for the Packers' abysmal rushing performance against the Detroit Lions on Thanksgiving, Green quite likely would have finished ahead of Taylor's pace.

Not that such specifics matter much to Green, who is more concerned this week with overtaking the Minnesota Vikings in the NFC North than Taylor in the Packers record book.

"I probably will celebrate after the game and definitely after the season with my teammates," Green said of surpassing Taylor. "But right now we are getting ready for our stretch run ... so I think that's the biggest focus."

Although so much attention has fallen on the statistics this week, the similarities between Green and Taylor go beyond the numbers.

Both have good health to thank for much of their success. Green has missed only two games since joining the Packers prior to the 2000 season, and Taylor claims that during his nine-year professional career he never underwent surgery.

But if a still-impressive physique gave away the 68-year-old Taylor last August, the thing that caught Green's attention was the way Taylor blended in.

"A guy just like any other guy," Green described. "Humble. You wouldn't have even known that he was a football player."

Often, those same words could be used to describe Green, who is unmistakable on the field but can be almost invisible off it.

Even in a week where Green could have drowned in adoration so close to the record, he did his best to keep his feet dry. And when asked about his success, passed the credit to those around him.

"I just kind of take off my hat to my offensive linemen and my fullbacks and tight ends," Green said when asked about the record. "Those are the guys that pretty for sure helped me get where I'm at right now.

"Because it would be hard running around with (quarterback Brett Favre) handing me the ball and nobody out there to block anybody."

Not that he, or Taylor before him, wouldn't give it a try.

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