Running backs take a beating, and when you have a weapon at running back like Ahman Green you must monitor his repetitions carefully.
Although the Green Bay Packers did not want to wear Green down before the season begins, they feared too little work would leave him rusty and prone to fumbles.
Green received 32 touches (26 rushes and six receptions) this year -- six more touches than last year.
That total should give Green the necessary work to understand his reads and develop a rhythm with his offensive teammates without taking any tread off his tires.
"In Ahman's case, if he's getting 10 preseason carries a game, that's pretty good," running back Tony Fisher said. "Instead of wearing him down, it's just looping him up for the season."
Green's carries likely would have reached that magic number of 10 had he played in the final preseason game against the Tennessee Titans. He did not dress for the game after missing the practice's leading up to it for personal reasons.
Even with Green, the Packers' running game underperformed during the preseason, averaging 3.3 yards. That number represented a significant drop off from the league's 10th-ranked running game, which averaged 4.3 yards in 2004. Green also dipped from 4.5 yards-a-carry during the 2004 season to 2.3 during the 2005 preseason.
As part of the process of evaluating its starting guards, the offensive line regularly rotated interior linemen, accounting for some of the difficulty running the ball.
The coaching staff also said Green becomes stronger as both the game and season wears on.
"It takes time. Your run game is usually not as good early as it is late," head coach Mike Sherman said. "Your running game's not as good in the first quarter as the fourth quarter and the same thing in the season."
As the leaves begin to fall from the trees, Green will have developed more cohesion with his blocking unit and mastered how opposing defenses prepare for him.
"I get into the groove of practicing," Green said. "I get into the flow of it."
His work ethic also allows him to bulldoze ahead while his defenders begin to wear down. Green continued sprint and weight training work after June's organized team activities wrapped up -- a time many NFL players use to travel or visit their families.
"Ahman's always taken care of his body and always taken care of himself," guard/center Grey Ruegamer said.
When he signed as a free agent during the offseason, guard Adrian Klemm was struck by Green's diligence in the weight room.
"As corny as it sounds, he's one of the first guys in and the last guys out," Klemm said. "I consider myself a hard worker, and a lot of times I'm leaving, and he's still in there."
The Packers will need Green's strength on Sunday. Detroit Lions defensive tackle Shaun Rodgers earned a Pro Bowl invitation last year. The Cincinnati Bengals drafted his linemate, 12-year-veteran defensive tackle Dan Wilkinson, with the first overall in the 1994 NFL draft. They have a combined weight of 680 pounds and allowed only 3.8 yards-a-rush last year.
Green plans to attack them head on.
"When you have a good front four like that, you basically run right at them," Green said. "When you run away from them, you play to their advantage with the fast linebackers we have."
Sherman remains confident the running game will not only penetrate the Lions' defense, but also resemble the Packers' mashing unit, which gained 1,908 yards in 2004.
"We're going to be a good running team," he said.
And that starts with Green, who looked as sharp as ever during training camp practices.
"He's feeling pretty good. He's looking pretty good obviously." Fisher said. "He's ready for the season, but only time will tell."