HOUSTON -- Ahman Green was supposed to be the answer to Houston's rushing woes when he joined the team last season.
Instead the former Green Bay back was limited to 70 carries for 260 yards as he dealt with a nagging knee problem.
The Texans signed free agent Chris Brown this offseason, but plan to rely on Green as the starter. Green, 31, says he's past his injury and ready to play, but questions remain about his health.
"He looks good. He's had a good offseason," coach Gary Kubiak said. "I want to knock on something every time I say that. He's been a good worker in the program. He hasn't missed a day."
The injury was first listed as a bone bruise and soon led to knee swelling. Numerous tests didn't uncover any other injuries but the issue caused him to miss all or part of 10 games.
He still doesn't know exactly what the problem was, but said it was extremely painful.
"It's something I never had pain-wise," he said. "I told coach and some of my teammates: 'If it ain't broke or cut off, I'd be out on that field.' But this type of pain I had was unbearable and I didn't want to make it any worse. I had to swallow a big pill and not finish the season, which frustrated me and of course my teammates and the coaches."
The Texans could certainly use him on the field after signing him to a four-year, $23 million contract before last season. They've had problems at the position since Domanick Williams (formerly Davis) was placed on injured reserve just days before the start of the 2006 season.
Green was solid early last season, rushing for more than 70 yards in each of the first two games to help the Texans to wins. He appeared in four games after that, but didn't make a meaningful contribution in any of them.
He's wearing a pad on his left knee as the Texans participate in their offseason practices. They're not wearing pads in these workouts and there's no serious contact, but so far he's pain-free.
"I've got to listen to my body," he said. "The body's feeling great now but the pad on the knee is just for precaution, because it was just a bang on the knee that nagged me on the whole year. So I want to protect that."
Though Green will start, the addition of Brown and rookie third-down back Steve Slaton should be beneficial for the team. The 6-foot Green and 6-3 Brown are both 220 pounds. Slaton is much smaller at 5-9 and 195 pounds.
"I think the fact that we may have a change-up back now helps those big backs," Kubiak said. "Ahman gives you the ability for the big play, but if the young kid that we drafted can do the same thing, then I think big kids like Chris and then Darius (Walker) are good because they're hard to tackle. You would like to have a little bit of both."
Green, who ran for 1,059 yards in 2006 and has six 1,000-yard rushing seasons in his career, doesn't feel like he has much left to prove. But he would like to stay healthy to help Houston get to the next level.
"I just want to prove to myself what I can still do, what I still want to do and help this team get just maybe two more wins and we have a chance to get in the playoffs," he said. "That's it. But right now, all I've got to worry about is tomorrow's practice."
Notes: The Texans signed receiver Tim Carter and Mark Simmons on Thursday and released RB Arliss Beach. ... C Chukky Okobi was placed on the injured reserve.
Copyright 2008 by The Associated Press