Howard Green was gracious in victory.
“For the most part, I don’t have anything bad to say about New York,” said the big Green Bay DT that Rex Ryan always calls “Big How’rd.” “I appreciate everything they did for me. This here right now takes care of all that. It’s awesome. This is the biggest stage in the world. I’m just enjoying it and letting it all soak in.”
“This here” was the Packers’ Super Bowl-winning locker room, which as the minutes passed following their 31-25 victory over the Steelers at Cowboys Stadium on Sunday night, took on the feel of a bus terminal at rush hour filling with nitrous oxide. Packers players, coaches and personnel joked and laughed and slapped each other on the back all around the room. Even the reporters milling around wore smiles as their subjects spoke giddily about “returning Lombardi to Lambeau.”
And in the middle of it, after staying out in the stadium in uniform for the longest time to let it soak in, was Green.
Just as he was in the middle of the game’s first big takeaway exchange late in the first quarter.
“I just had to get off on the ball. I had a pass/run read on Kemo,” he said of Pittsburgh LG Chris Kemoeatu, who (perhaps appropriate of nothing) is the kid brother of Ma’ake Kemoeatu, Green’s rookie teammate on the 2002 Ravens. “I had a good bull rush on him, I had my hands in.”
Before Cheeseheads and Terrible Towels knew it, there was No. 95, Big How’rd, crashing into Ben Roethlisberger at the goal line. Big Ben got off a wobbler, intended for WR Mike Wallace but falling well short, into the hands of S Nick Collins at the Pittsburgh 37.
“I’m glad I didn’t get the sack,” Green said. “Nick was faster than I thought he was. By the time I got off the ground, he was already in the end zone. That play was big. That play there put points on the board for our team.”
Collins crashed through black-and-gold-uniformed bodies at the goal line not far from where Green had done the same seconds earlier. Suddenly it was 14-0. No team had ever climbed out of that large a hole in the Super Bowl. And while the Steelers tried their best and trimmed an eventual 18-point deficit to four points and then three, they never got the lead.
It was a twister of a ride for Green to get to Green Bay. As Jets fans remember, he was one of the members of the D-line rotation in Ryan’s first year at the helm. He left as an unrestricted free agent after the season, then returned twice to the Jets in 2010, on Sept. 15 (released Sept. 30) and again Oct. 4 (released Oct. 26).
We heard the stories, that the Jets weren’t happy with Green’s weight gain after his late-September release. Green kind of agreed and didn’t agree with that when he was asked about it during Super Bowl week. But in truth, there are many reasons why players get brought in over the side and tossed back by every team, and we’ll never hear all the reasons from both sides.
As Howard said Sunday night, “I didn’t know what would be my next move” after his final Jets release. “Green Bay gave me a call. It’s a great feeling now. I’m just enjoying it.”
Green has always had the knack for the big play. In his first action back as a Jet this year, Game 3 at Miami, he forced a Ricky Williams fumble and put a fourth-quarter third-down hit on Chad Henne that helped produce an incompletion and keep the Jets in control. In his first game as a Packer, he was in the middle of that fourth-quarter fumbled reverse exchange from LaDainian Tomlinson to Jerricho Cotchery at New Meadowlands.
Then he topped his first season on the Pack with his third straight playoff start and his only stat of the night, the key QB hit on Big Ben.
I asked him what he would tell his former Green & White teammates about the feeling he was enjoying, the one they wanted so badly for themselves and just came up two wins short of savoring as he was in front of me. Green responded with an eye toward not only the Jets but also toward his new line coach, Mike Trgovac, who was the Carolina defensive coordinator when the Panthers yielded 32 points in their Super Bowl XXXVIII loss to the Patriots in early 2004.
“This is an experience of a lifetime. You never forget either end of it, lose or win,” Green said. “Mike Trgovac would always tell us, you don’t want to be on that side of the game, on the losing side. We fixed it for him tonight.”
And shortly after a couple of us helped pull Green’s rack off his body in front of his Cowboys Stadium locker, he got his finger sized for a ring.
More Super Nuggets
As announced Sunday night, when teams have three or more takeaways in a Super Bowl, they are 31-4. Not sure if it was also announced that when teams have a plus-3 or larger takeaway margin in the title game, they are 22-0. … At this morning’s final SB news conferences with Packers coach Mike McCarthy and MVP Aaron Rodgers, commissioner Roger Goodell said that “We have preliminary readings that have come in already that indicate the game will be the most-watched show in the history of television.”
Tags: Ben Roethlisberger, Cowboys Stadium, Green Bay Packers, Howard Green, PIttsburgh Steelers, Rex Ryan, Roger Goodell
Posted in Randy Lange | 19 Comments »