Greene works his way back into fold after injury

Senior AJ Greene, found his way back out onto the field vs. MSU.

If he had his choice, A.J. Greene would never again watch tape of the play that cost him his junior season.

The senior tackle doesn’t want to see the play against Clemson last Sept. 18 in which he got rolled up in a pile at the line and bent backward awkwardly, breaking the tibia and dislocating the ankle on his left leg — an injury that required 12 screws, a plate, two wires and months of rehab to correct.

But he couldn’t stay away from it forever. Especially during ESPN’s wall-to-wall draft coverage.

“They show it on ESPN all the time. I saw it on accident one time,” Greene said. “I was looking at it and I think (former Clemson and current Tampa Bay Bucs defensive end) Da’Quan (Bowers) was on the left side and he got a sack on the left side, but that was the same play I broke my leg.

“So I saw it and I was like, ‘Oh, man. That’s the play.’”

Greene, aside from a rogue ESPN highlight reel, has largely been able to put last year’s gruesome injury out of his mind.

The senior came from relative obscurity to win the starting right tackle job across from Lee Ziemba last season, anchoring the right side of the line for the Tigers’ first three games before missing the rest of the year recovering from the damage to his leg and ankle.

“It was difficult,” Greene said. “Coming from where I came from and then to get hurt in the third game, it was rough. But I fought through it and kept God close to my heart. And I made it through. So I’m back now and I’m just excited to be able to play.”

Greene was the presumptive favorite to win the right tackle job coming out of spring, but a push from redshirt freshman Chad Slade — along with another unspecified injury that cost him a little more than a week of fall camp — found him on the bench to start the season.

With all the upheaval Auburn’s line experienced, Greene was the odd man out.

“I don’t want to say I didn’t care, but I was going to do my part as far as the team was concerned,” Greene said. “So if that’s what it was, that’s what it was. I was going to continue to work hard and do what they needed me to do.”

Enter Utah State’s defense and a 78-yard rushing performance by Auburn, its lowest in three years under Gus Malzahn.

Exit job security for the Tigers’ linemen.

Offensive line coach Jeff Grimes, after hinting at changes last week, pulled the trigger Saturday against Mississippi State, plugging Greene in at left tackle, shifting Brandon Mosley from left to right tackle and using the tandem of Slade and John Sullen at right guard.

It worked for at least one game, with the Tigers hanging 235 rush yards on the Bulldogs.

Head coach Gene Chizik gave Greene a passing grade for his first game action in nearly a year, with a caveat.

“He did what we needed him to do,” Chizik said. “I thought there were times when he did some good things. There were certainly some times where he needed to improve greatly. Overall, he did what we needed him to do.”

Greene, who has before stated that pushing off on his previously injured ankle hurts “pretty much every play,” said the fragility of his lower left leg weighed on his mind a little bit when he took the field Saturday, but he didn’t let it affect him.

And he’ll watch film from the Clemson game last year. He’ll just try to fast forward through one play in particular.

“If I’m out there, I’m going to think about it,” Greene said. “But at the end of the day, if they call on me to do a certain thing, I can’t let the injury hold me from doing what I’m supposed to do.”

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