Fullback John Kuhn says he entertained some serious offers in free agency but was relieved to re-sign with the Green Bay Packers for three more years.
“It was like my career, ups and downs, roller coaster ride,” Kuhn told reporters on Monday. “Sometimes you get a little nervous, because you think, ‘Man, maybe I won’t be back.’ But I’m very happy the way everything turned out, to be back here, to be back with the Packers, and I’m really excited to get on the field.”
Kuhn went from unheralded role player to folk hero while picking up some of the slack after Ryan Grant’s season-ending injury. He entered last season with 46 rushing yards, 14 receptions and six total touchdowns in 55 career games. Without Grant and with Brandon Jackson unable to carry the load, Kuhn responded with 281 rushing yards, 15 receptions and six total touchdowns.
“I just think the community’s so great, they’re so welcoming to me personally,” Kuhn said. “The offense fits kind of what I do really well. And the team’s got great atmosphere and chemistry right now. The locker room’s tremendous. You don’t ever want to break up a good thing.”
With Grant healthy, James Starks looking like a legit running back and rookie Alex Green showing some burst, Kuhn understands that he might not be in the limelight like he was last season. He’s fine with returning to his natural position, fullback. However, with Jackson having signed with Cleveland last week, coach Mike McCarthy has said Kuhn is the early leader to be the team’s third-down back.
“I did that quite a bit last year,” Kuhn said. “I’m really comfortable with it. I know we have a full staff at running back this year, so we’re going to have guys that are going to be able to fill in and do that just fine.”
McCarthy hoped tight end Jermichael Finley and safety Morgan Burnett would be “close to full” when the team returns to the practice field on Wednesday night. Defensive end Mike Neal “is a little further behind” than Finley and Burnett, McCarthy said, but he hopes to work Neal into more drills on Wednesday.
Veteran left tackle Chad Clifton did some of the individual work but got most of the night off.
“That’s nothing really unusual for him,” McCarthy said. “The focus for Chad was to work the individual drills and not do any team work. It’s twofold: where he is physically and also the ability to give more reps to the left tackle spot with Marshall (Newhouse) and Derek (Sherrod) and continue the rotation of T.J. (Lang) and eventually try to get Nick (McDonald) in there at some left guard. We’re just trying to maximize those reps with those young guys.”
McCarthy had no injuries to report from the practice. Tight end Andrew Quarless, nose tackle Eli Joseph and linebacker Diyral Briggs have not passed their physicals. Offensive linemen Adrian Battles (Achilles; further testing) and Theo Sherman (ankle) were out.
— How did the first padded practice of training camp go? “We need a lot more of them. That was evident,” McCarthy said. “I would say it’s normal when you get in pads the first time. There’s going to be a lot of positive things when we watch the film tomorrow, but I felt it was sluggish. The tempo’s not where it needs to be. We have guys feeling their way around. I thought they pushed through the last part of practice better than they did the first two nights. That’s something that was an emphasis today in the meetings. We have a lot of work to do and that’s what you’d expect after your first padded practice.”
— Who will be the Packers’ backup at inside linebacker? Maybe Robert Francois, who has impressed early and looked good in coverage several times on Monday. “Very consistent. That’s a big part of why Robert’s still here,” McCarthy said. “He has the ability to go play inside and outside. Probably a little more natural inside. Has played a number of different positions on special teams.”
— James Jones signed his contract and was on the practice field, though, like Kuhn, he is not eligible to practice until Wednesday. “Because that’s like my brother from a different mother, I gave a lot of of two-cent comments (to management to urge them to re-sign Jones),” fellow receiver Greg Jennings said. “I’m happy to see that he’s back. I said this to a few guys: We’re looked at as one of the better receiving corps in the NFL. If you unplug any one of those guys, that outlook goes down. I don’t care which one you unplug, it goes down. Fortunately for us, he’s back.”
— It was Brad Jones’ turn to work with the No. 1 defense in the battle to start at outside linebacker opposite Clay Matthews. Jones started five games last season before needing season-ending shoulder surgery. “Feel good. Feel great. I forget which should I had surgery on sometimes,” he said.
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