Edwards expects Green to start in 2007

With his team still clinging to a shred of playoff hope for 2006, Kansas City coach Herm Edwards isn't about give up on his first season with the Chiefs yet.

Still, Edwards did give up one bit of key information on one critical element of the 2007 season, by emphasizing on Tuesday that 13-year veteran quarterback Trent Green will return as the starter next year.

"I don't think we need to get in a panic after one season of a guy basically being knocked out for half the year, and then having to come back and play," Edwards said. "Yeah, he didn't have the stats that he had last year. Well, how can he? He missed a lot of games."

Green, 36, missed eight games after sustaining a severe head injury in the season opener when he roamed outside the pocket and was leveled by Cincinnati defensive end Robert Geathers. The two-month hiatus marked Green's first absence from the Chiefs' lineup since he was traded to Kansas City by the St. Louis Rams in 2001. He had started 81 consecutive games until the injury.

Journeyman backup Damon Huard, who had started only six games in his first nine NFL seasons and none since 2000, moved into the lineup and posted a 5-3 record in keeping the Chiefs' playoff chances alive until Green was able to return.

Huard is eligible for unrestricted free agency in the spring, and given his clutch performance this season and the need around the NFL for experienced quarterbacks, could draw considerable attention in the market. But Edwards is hopeful the Chiefs can retain Huard and, if they don't, seems prepared to turn the No. 2 job over to Brodie Croyle.

A third-round choice in this year's draft, Croyle has played sparingly as a rookie, and it is difficult to gauge his progress. But the former Alabama star does provide the Chiefs something they haven't had in a long time -- a young, developing quarterback with a promising future. Then again, if Edwards has his druthers, Croyle won't have to play for a while yet.

Even through Green is just 3-4 in his seven starts and demonstrated some slippage after returning from his head injury, Edwards is confident the classy veteran can still perform at a high level. And the Chiefs, under Edwards' orders, will continue to take some of the workload off Green's shoulders by running the ball more, with tailback Larry Johnson the centerpiece of the offense.

It was obvious when Green moved back into the lineup that Edwards does not expect him to throw 30-40 passes a game, as he has done at times in the past. In fact, Green has averaged just 25.3 attempts per game this season as Edwards has redirected the focus of the Kansas City offensive design.

Green has completed 107 of 177 passes for 1,161 yards, with six touchdown passes and seven interceptions and a passer rating of 74.6. His career rating, by comparison, is 87.6.

"We're going to do what we have to do to protect [Green]," Edwards said. "And to make him efficient and keep him playing at a winning level."

Len Pasquarelli is a senior NFL writer for ESPN.com. To check out Len's chat archive, click hereInsider.