Ladarius Green joked that he feels like he is coming out of retirement. It is easy to understand why. The tight end has yet to put on the pads since signing a four-year, $20-millon contract with the Pittsburgh Steelers as a free agent last spring.
Green began the season on the physically unable to perform list as he was slow to recover from ankle surgery at the end of last season. There were also multiple reports that Green was also feeling the aftereffects of two concussions sustained last season in his fourth and final year with the San Diego Chargers.
It appears that Green will finally start practicing this week, perhaps as soon as Wednesday. The Steelers will have a maximum of three weeks to evaluate Green and decide whether he can return to the active roster. If not, he must spend the remainder of the season on the PUP list.
“I’m excited,” Green said. “I feel pretty good. It’s been a while since I have played, a while since I have practiced. I am excited to get back out there and see what I can do.”
Green was expected to replace Heath Miller, who retired after last season following an 11-year career that saw him set every major franchise receiving record for a tight end.
With Green sidelined, the Steelers have used three tight ends in his place, including Jesse James, Xavier Grimble and D.J. Johnson. All three have performed well for the Steelers, who take a 4-2 record into Sunday’s matchup with the New England Patriots (5-1) at Heinz Field.
Jones has 20 receptions, tied for second on the team with running back Le’Veon Bell, for 141 yards and three touchdowns. Grimble has six catches for 69 yards and one score while Johnson has two receptions for 31 yards.
“I am still trying to make the team,” Green said. “I am new to it. The tight ends have been playing well so far. I have to try and find a spot there because they have been doing so great at it. Hopefully I can bring something. I haven’t shown anything. They don’t know what I can do.”
The Steelers have a pretty good idea of what Green can do if healthy as he had 77 receptions for 1,087 yards and seven touchdowns in four seasons backing up Antonio Gates with the Chargers. It was enough that the Steelers were willing to guarantee $4.75 million of his contract.
The last hurdle Green experienced in recovering from the surgery was having the confidence to jump on the ankle. He can now do that without pain.
“It’s come a long way,” he said.
Green has had plenty of time to study his new team’s playbook. However, he knows he must now carry that knowledge onto the field.
“You can learn as much as you want to but until you go on the field and actually go through it, it’s a big difference,” Green said.
It seems highly doubtful that Green would be ready to play this week. However, being in uniform Nov. 6 when the Steelers play the Ravens in Baltimore following next week’s bye, seems to be realistic.
“It’s depending how I look in practice, depending on how I look getting the plays down,” Green said. “It’s going to have a lot to do with a lot of things.”