Green finally has somthing to smile about

Published 12:00 am Friday, November 29, 2002

BEREA -- Surrounded again, William Green searched for an opening to wiggle through. No hole. Nowhere to go.

So, realizing he couldn't elude reporters any longer, Cleveland's rookie running back relented, agreeing to an interview he avoided for weeks.

At least he finally had something positive to talk about.

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''I'm just happy I'm able to go out there and do my part for the team,'' Green said.

Green, who broke out for a season-high 114 rushing yards and a touchdown in last week's upset win against the New Orleans Saints, broke his two-month silence with the media on Wednesday to discuss his inconsistent season.

And at times, Green's smile was almost as wide as the holes he's been running through lately.

Until the past two weeks, Green's first pro season had been marred by a training camp contract holdout, nagging injuries, 2-yard runs and a queasy stomach that caused him to throw up several times on the field two weeks ago at Cincinnati.

Browns fans were beginning to wonder if Cleveland had made a huge mistake with the No. 16 overall pick, who left Boston College a year early for the NFL.

But instead of being a bust, Green, who has averaged 110 yards in his last two games, is suddenly busting out. He credits his turnaround to some extra work in the weight and film rooms.

''I just didn't know what to expect,'' said Green, benched earlier this season. ''There's no substitute for experience. Now I realize I need to work a lot harder off the field. It's not about just getting out there and running, it's about studying and knowing your opponent and knowing the job you've got to do.''

Through nine games, Green was averaging a measly 2.1 yards per carry and his longest run was a 14-yarder.

But the 6-foot-1, 221-pounder has been a different back the past two weeks, and his emergence has given Cleveland's offense more balance than it has had in four years.

He's running with the same tenacity as he did in college, and he has shown amazing power with a pair of stiff arms and a few punishing blocks.

After he flattened Bengals cornerback Kevin Kaesviharn with a stiff arm, Cleveland's offensive line gave Green the ''Big Bone'' award, an honor until then only bestowed on linemen.

''William is the real deal,'' tackle Ross Verba said. ''I knew he was the real deal when I first saw him in training camp.''

Verba's support was typical among Green's teammates while he was struggling. Browns coach Butch Davis never left Green's corner, either, claiming during the team's bye week that his rookie would start for Cleveland in the playoffs.

The encouragement helped Green.

''It felt good,'' said Green. ''You ask yourself a lot of questions especially being a rookie and not having success. A million questions ran through my mind, so any positive output anybody could have given me was good.''

Green said he never lost faith that he'd be able to have a good first season.

''The whole time my mindset was always to try and get better in spite of what was going on, and in spite of what you guys were writing about me,'' he said. ''I was just trying to get better because I had no one to answer to but myself.''