HOUSTON -- Ahman Green caught a screen pass and sprinted down the sideline. On the next play, he took a handoff, cut back and burst through a hole into the open field.
The Houston Texans running back missed most of last season with a knee injury, and his eagerness has been on display at training camp this week. The four-time Pro Bowler often catches himself going a little too hard in 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 bruised 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.
At minicamp in May, the knee was healed but Green was still preoccupied with it, a dangerous mind-set for a running back.
"That was the hard part, not worrying about that," said Green, who has 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 repetitions he took, the more he put the injury out of his mind. 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 frequently asks for feedback during practice, another indicator that he has moved past the injury and is 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 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 snaps during morning workouts, and Kubiak said he's limiting Green 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 Saturday and hasn't practiced since, but Kubiak said he was being "extra cautious" and that Johnson's injury was minor.
Copyright 2008 by The Associated Press