As FB John Kuhn rehabs his knee, the Packers backfield faces question marks going into next season.
By PAUL IMIGFS Wisconsin
GREEN BAY, Wis. — Six months after
John Kuhn was carted off the field with a knee injury in Green Bay's playoff loss to the New York Giants, the
Packers' fullback is still not sure when he'll be fully cleared by team doctors.
Though Kuhn won't discuss specifics, he told FOXSportsWisconsin.com that he suffered a right knee injury in that game, one that he's "been working on this whole offseason to make stronger."
But with training camp set to begin July 26, Kuhn isn't sure if he'll be ready to participate yet.
"Those decisions aren't up to myself," Kuhn said in a phone interview. "I anticipate being able to do some work, but I'm not exactly sure what that's going to be. It will be something on the field, but I'm just not sure how many active plays it will include.
"I feel healthy enough. But sometimes you feel healthy enough and coaches and doctors want to be cautious. We'll see."
Kuhn's status adds to an already compelling situation in Green Bay's backfield heading into the 2012 season. At the moment, the Packers have yet to re-sign free agent running back Ryan Grant, who split carries with the oft-injured James Starks last season.
Starks is currently projected as Green Bay's starting running back, but Kuhn believes it is possible Grant could return and wear a Packers uniform this season.
"I wouldn't be surprised if Ryan got re-signed, but I also wouldn't be surprised if we went with these young guys," Kuhn said.
If Grant has played his final snap in Green Bay, Starks will be backed up by 2011 third-round pick Alex Green. However, Green is working his way back from a serious left knee injury that put him on injured reserve for the majority of his rookie season. Green is hopeful to be ready for training camp in a full capacity, but that still remains to be seen.
Kuhn believes, if Grant is not brought back, that Starks and Green are capable of helping the Packers improve from their spot last season as the sixth-worst running team in the league.
"These guys are young, but very mature," Kuhn said. "Maturity goes a long way in the NFL, especially in Green Bay when you have nothing else but football to focus on."
Kuhn only carried the ball 30 times in the 2011 season, just one year removed from a career-high 84 rushing attempts in 2010. But if Grant is gone for good, it's possible that Kuhn could become a more prominent running option in coach Mike McCarthy's offense this upcoming season.
"I'll be ready if they put that on me," Kuhn said. "The funny thing about the NFL is you really never do know what will happen. I've probably played half my snaps at halfback and half at fullback the past two seasons."
Kuhn rushed for 281 yards (3.3 per-carry average) with four touchdowns in 2010, but was less effective last season, finishing with 78 yards and a 2.6 yards-per-carry average.
If Starks, Green and Kuhn are all given relatively equal carries, it could form a diverse running attack for the Packers. Given McCarthy's public comments last season about not needing one primary running back to be successful, a three-player rotation could work to his play-calling advantage.
"You can create several different packages instead of just one guy playing every snap," Kuhn said." You can have one for power back situations, one for single back, one for each package. It keeps the defense guessing."
Even if quarterback Aaron Rodgers has another record-setting season, coming off his 45-touchdowns, six-interceptions MVP campaign, the Packers would still really benefit from an improved running game. Despite Green Bay's deficiency in that area in 2011, it was still a memorable season for Kuhn.
"It will be a year I'll never forget," Kuhn said. "I don't think we lost a game for almost a calendar year. That was something pretty awesome.
"We did have an asterisk, though. We didn't achieve our goal and we're trying to learn from that lesson."