GREEN BAY — It’s been a little more than a week since Christine Michael arrived in Green Bay, but the fourth-year running back already feels ready to contribute.
Michael told reporters on Wednesday that he’s “been in my playbook like crazy” since the Packers claimed him off waivers last week, developing enough comfort in the scheme to potentially play in Monday night’s game in Philadelphia.
His conditioning shouldn’t be an issue. Prior to his arrival in Green Bay, the 5-foot-10, 221-pound running back was the Seattle Seahawks’ leading rusher with 117 carries for 469 yards and six touchdowns in nine games with seven starts.
Asked what Michael might be able to do against the Eagles, Packers Head Coach Mike McCarthy said during his Friday morning news conference that the newly acquired running back’s preparation could put him in position to contribute Monday.
“Christine Michael is doing a really good job,” said McCarthy. “I really liked the way he practiced on Wednesday. He’ll get more today. It would be nice to have him part of our rotation come Monday night. We just have to continue to work the plan. This is our workload day today. He’s fit in really nice. So I’m glad he’s here; that’s for sure.”
Michael was inactive for Sunday’s loss in Washington but has been working non-stop with his new running backs coach, Ben Sirmans, to pick up the offense.
McCarthy has praised Sirmans for the job he’s done in getting the Packers’ reserve running backs up to speed in the wake of injuries to Eddie Lacy and James Starks this season.
Sirmans, a former high school health teacher, pulled a few late-night study sessions with Knile Davis and Don Jackson before welcoming Michael as his newest project last week.
Michael and Sirmans briefly met at the 2013 NFL Scouting Combine when Sirmans, then the Rams’ running backs coach, conducted a formal interview with Michael following his senior year at Texas A&M.
The two spent time together during the Packers’ off-day on Tuesday, combing through the finer points of the playbook and what the team expects of its running backs.
“We spent like maybe an hour and a half, maybe close to two hours going over the run game, going over the pass game, then also going into the gym and running over some of the things,” Michael said. “(I’m) just ready to go, man. I feel like it's simple. It's just football, you know what I mean? Just study it … go out there and play.”
Michael credited Sirmans for being a coach who “wants his guys to get it.” His patient, methodical approach has helped the new running back get the playbook “down real easy.”
The absence of a traditional running game has been a blessing and curse for the Packers. While it’s expanded Ty Montgomery’s role in the offense, it also has put more on the shoulders of quarterback Aaron Rodgers and the passing game.
Rodgers believes Michael’s addition could have an impact on the offense because it gives the Packers two traditional backs in Starks and Michael, and a hybrid threat in Montgomery.
“It’s yet to be seen exactly in this offense, but what he’s done in other offenses has been pretty spectacular,” said Rodgers of Michael, who has 223 carries for 966 yards (4.3 yards per carry) in three-plus NFL seasons.
“He’s scored six touchdowns this year, which would obviously put him first on our squad. He’s a change-of-pace back, very quick, very athletic, and he’s happy to be here. I think he was just looking for an opportunity. Obviously a guy of his talent wasn’t on the street for that long. Just a couple of hours until he was claimed. I’m excited to get him out there.”
The Packers rank 19th in rushing this season, though Rodgers has factored heavily into the ground totals with 40 runs for 259 yards and three touchdowns, putting him on pace for career highs in all three categories.
The emergence of a more consistent run game could lessen the weight on Rodgers’ shoulders and better establish the Packers’ play-action game.
McCarthy announced earlier this week that Lacy won’t return this season after undergoing ankle surgery, so it’ll be up to Starks, Michael, Montgomery and fullback Aaron Ripkowski to help move things along.
Michael remains open-minded about where he fits. It doesn’t matter if he’s asked to touch the ball 20 times or play strictly special teams – all he’s asking for is an opportunity.
“I feel like I can contribute a lot, man,” Michael said. “I’m just going to make sure I’m prepared that way. I’m in my playbook every day. I feel comfortable with the plays that I got out there, learning from the guys in front of me, Ty Montgomery, James Starks, I even asked Eddie Lacy some things here and there, Aaron Rodgers, the receivers. Just trying to get ready to go, man, get on the same page with these guys.”