Kats' Green returns from injury

Monday, May 7, 2001 at 1:00am

Nashville Kats defensive specialist Cliff Green proved you can go home again, but for the first couple of weeks of the season the question was how long he was going to be allowed to stay here.

Green, from Decatur, Ga., played his college football at Tennessee State University. In his third year in the Arena Football League, Green was obtained by the Kats from the Los Angeles Avengers in a trade.

Green hurt his right ankle and was not healthy enough to play in a game until two weeks ago against the Florida Bobcats. Two days before that game, Kats coach Pat Sperduto made it clear to Green that more than playing time was on the line. A let down in practice before facing the Bobcats might mean a new team would be in his future.

"You felt it ... the pressure," Green said. "He [Sperduto] would make statements like that to us. He told us somebody was going to get cut. It's just the realities of the game. If you're on a team overflowing with talent then you have to step up if you're going to play. I played well in practice and it rolled over into the game. I felt more pressure because I would have felt embarrassed if I had come here as a hometown guy and gotten cut.

"I feel like I have a lot of talent ... a lot to give. I'm working hard because I want to get better."

Green picked off an interception against the Bobcats and returned it for a touchdown and also recovered two fumbles. In Thursday night's 38-28 victory over the New Jersey Gladiators Green was second on the team in tackles with seven (six unassisted).

Sperduto watched Green throughout his college career and during his time with the Cobras. He thought Green needed a change in scenery to fully reach his potential and decided to make the deal with L.A.

"Dealing with a coach who has high expectations for you and who is backing you up, it would have almost been a slap in the face to let him down," Green said. "I felt like I was letting him down when I was hurt."

For Green it was more tiresome to stand on the sidelines and watch the rest of the team practice.

"Everybody is out there playing and you want to get out there and show what you can do," Green said. "It's all about conditioning and taking care of your body. You're going to have injuries but a lot of them can be avoided."

Playing in the secondary is a challenge in the Arena League. Green is paired with savvy veterans in Adrian Lunsford and Ron Carpenter and Robert Davis, one of the more physical players in the league.

"I'm a speedster. I'm a cover guy. But I can also come up and hit you," Green said. "I don't study as much as players like Adrian, Robert and Ron do and I know that can make my game even better."

Green's speed allows him to be a gambler on defense. Sperduto doesn't mind letting his secondary roam on a long leash.

"I try to rely on my speed a lot," Green said. "I feel like I'm a gambler. If I'm even around a play I'm going to try to make the play. With the type of linemen we have we can afford to gamble. They are going to be back there quick."

Green admits he is a big fan of Deion Sanders, a star in both pro football and baseball, who admits that studying game film of his opponents is one of the main reasons he is so effective on coverages in the secondary.

"Deion says he studies his opponents very well," Green said. "That's one thing I want to do. If I study my opponents and put that with my physical attributes I feel like I can have a lot to offer a team."

Sperduto knows Green has the talent to play the game, but he is looking for consistency, something that has been lacking.

"Something Cliff has to understand is that the knock on him has been consistency," Sperduto said "A good thing for Cliff is having guys like Ron Carpenter, Adrian Lunsford and Robert Davis back there. Those guys have been consistent game in and game out and year in and year out. Those guys will take him under their wings and groom him to be a very consistent football player we hope."

The Kats will put their 3-1 record on the line Sunday afternoon at 2 when they travel to Orlando to take on the troubled Predators.

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