Allen Park — One week he’s Devonta Freeman, the next Dalvin Cook. While he waits for his opportunity, Lions running back Tion Green’s job is to be someone different every week.
An undrafted rookie out of Cincinnati, Green was one of the biggest surprises when the Lions’ announced their 53-man roster heading into the season. Six weeks and a dozen roster moves later, despite being a healthy scratch the first six games, he still has that job.
He earned his spot with a solid training camp and electric preseason finale, where he racked up 150 yards from scrimmage and dazzled with a 74-yard touchdown off a screen pass.
He’s kept the spot by fully committing himself to providing the first-team defense with the best impersonations he can on the scout team.
“I pride myself on giving those guys a good look,” Green said. “If we have a running back that goes over 100 yards, I take that personally because I’m the scout team back. I want to give those guys the best possible look. If a guy does really well, it has to be because someone missed a key, or something. It won’t be because I didn’t physically prepare them.”
Green fully immerses himself into the role. He studies his assignment’s tape and tendencies. While he’s perfecting the performance he’ll give on the practice field, he’s also looking to steal the best stuff and incorporate it into his own, developing game.
“They’re all great backs,” Green said. “I’m a rookie, I look up to all these guys out there. Competing, trying to imitate them, it’s all a great experience.”
On top of his scout team duties, the Lions keep Green on his toes within the scheme. Every so often the coaching staff will unexpectedly thrust him into a play, either as a running back and blocking back, to make sure he’s staying on top of his playbook.
Green is patient and he doesn’t worry about his spot on the roster, even though he’s clearly always on the cusp as the fifth running back. He’s well aware he has no control over general manager Bob Quinn’s roster decisions, so the rookie focuses on putting his best foot forward every day, learning from the veterans in his room and staying prepared for when his opportunity does come.
“Just like the preseason, I approach every day like a job interview,” Green said. “I come to work every day, be on time, work hard, make my weight, lift, listen to (the veterans), stay out of the way, give the defense relentless effort, go home, pray, be thankful, hang around and try to learn as much as I can from those guys, be a good person to them.”
There’s been no indication Green’s chance is coming soon, but the players ahead on the depth chart haven’t done much to slam the door on a shot in the near future. Dwayne Washington missed three straight games with a quad injury and Zach Zenner is averaging 1.6 yards with his 10 carries. Both contribute on special teams, but so can Green, who finished second on the team in kick coverage tackles in the preseason.