September 19, 2002 at 2:01 PM EST - Updated July 12 at 4:27 AM
By TOM WITHERS, AP Sports Writer
BEREA, Ohio (AP) - Those wide-open holes William Green ran through at Boston College have been replaced by towering walls. Defenses are faster. Linebackers are bigger. The playbook is fatter.
And homecoming this year is against the Pittsburgh Steelers -- not the Rutgers Scarlet Knights.
Like a freshman wandering campus during orientation, Cleveland's rookie running back has looked a little lost after his first two Sundays in the NFL.
"It's a whole other level," Green said. "In college, everything was a lot easier. But this is the NFL. I'm working on doing better. It's still just a learning process."
The Browns need their first-round draft pick to quickly get ahead of the curve.
After two weeks, Green, taken by the Browns with the No. 16 overall pick to fix their dreadful running game, has carried 25 times for 53 yards -- an average of 2.1 yards per carry.
Last Sunday, running behind a patchwork offensive line, Green ran 17 times for 36 yards with a long gain of eight yards in Cleveland's 20-7 win over the Cincinnati Bengals.
Green's only breakaway run came following the game when he avoided reporters, dressed quickly and left Browns Stadium. Was he frustrated?
"No, not really," he said. "I'm happy the offense is moving the ball and making things happen, that's the most important part. And we won, that's the thing that matters most to me."
Green's less-than-spectacular start isn't totally unexpected. He has battled nagging injuries -- calf sprain, groin pull and shoulder bruise -- since mini-camp this spring. He missed the opening week of summer training camp in a contract holdout.
Then, just as he had seemed to be hitting his stride, Green had to miss some practice before the season opener against Kansas City with back spasms.
Browns coach Butch Davis acknowledged the setbacks have stunted Green's progress.
"He's still catching up," Davis said. "But the more he plays, the more he gets into the rhythm. There's no substitute for playing. We can't go back and recapture the time we lost."
In fairness to Green, he ran behind a banged up offensive line last week.
The Browns were without starting right tackle Ryan Tucker and center Dave Wohlabaugh, both listed as questionable for this Sunday's game at Tennessee.
"It doesn't help when you have to juggle your offensive linemen," Davis said. "You've got a brand new right tackle, a brand new center. We'll just have to keep working on it."
At times, Green appeared unsure of where to go and seemed to change his mind and directions on a running play. Davis, though, defended his back's decision making.
"He was never tentative," Davis said. "He ran really well. We thought he did fine. This guy's got vision, he's got bursts and acceleration. On some of the runs he had, there wasn't a lot there."
Green admitted Wednesday that he didn't help matters on Sunday. Instead of running around pileups at the line of scrimmage, he ran into them.
"On some plays I felt like I got what was there," he said. "On some plays I felt like I didn't. I'm still just adjusting. There are certain reads that I still need to learn how to make. On some plays I've missed the hole."
Cleveland's running game was the NFL's worst in 2001 with an average of just 84.4 yards per game. This year, it's averaging just 67 yards -- placing it 27th in the league.
Davis is preaching patience. Before long, he said, the running game and Green will grow together.
"It's like a bamboo shoot," he said. "You plant it, you water and you wait. And the first year you get nothing out of it. The second year you might get very little, and the third year it's 80 feet tall."
(Copyright 2002 by The Associated Press. All Rights Reserved.)