Bennett Walked in Kuhn's Shoes

John Kuhn will play halfback and fullback on Sunday, just like Edgar Bennett used to do years ago while lining up in the backfield with Dorsey Levens.

Before there was John Kuhn, there was Edgar Bennett.

Before Bennett was the Green Bay Packers' running backs coach, before he was the franchise's first 1,000-yard rusher in 15 years, Bennett was what Kuhn figures to be on Sunday: part halfback and part fullback.

"Like it was yesterday," Bennett said when asked if recalled that combo role. "Our positions were kind of interchangeable with me and Dorsey Levens in the backfield. We had two guys that did both, who played halfback and fullback. One play, I might line up as a fullback and then I might line up as a halfback because we were very versatile and interchangeable."

For the last two seasons, Kuhn was the benefactor of one of coach Mike McCarthy's pet short-yardage plays. With the defense flowing one way with the Packers' offensive linemen and running back Ryan Grant, Kuhn would get the ball and run against that flow, presumably for the first down or a touchdown.

That role expanded this summer by necessity. During the preseason game at Seattle, Kregg Lumpkin and James Starks didn't suit up and Quinn Porter wound up spraining his ankle. That left the Packers with only two halfbacks, and the coaches certainly weren't going to put Grant back on the field in the second half of a meaningless preseason game. So, Jackson split reps with Kuhn to end the game.

Kuhn ran well in that game and finished the preseason with 13 carries for 53 yards and a touchdown. On Sunday, with Grant on the sideline in a walking boot, Kuhn followed an All-Pro block from Josh Sitton for a 12-yard run and punched it in from 3 yards moments later.

"As bad as it is to lose Ryan, we've all had experience back there," Kuhn said. "We've all at least been in there in practice and in preseason games. Losing Ryan is great blow, but we're prepared and we're ready."

Jackson carried the ball 16 times against the Eagles, which was almost double his season-high total of nine in 2009. Those 16 carries were his most since 20 rushes in the 2007 regular-season finale, when the Packers rested Grant for the playoff run.

The point is, Jackson hasn't proven he can be the every-down back. Presumably, Kuhn is going to have to get some rushes in the flow of the game and/or to help run out the clock if the game is in hand.

"Could happen," Bennett said with a smile. "You want me to give away (the game plan)?"

Bennett was a fullback at Florida State but got the ball between eight and 10 times a game as a runner and receiver. Kuhn was the main ball-carrier at Division II Shippensburg, departing in 2004 as the holder of 27 school records and six conference marks after piling up 4,685 rushing yards and 53 touchdowns for his career. After spending 2005 on the Steelers' practice squad, Kuhn entered this season with 18 career rushes. So, it's been a long time since Kuhn has regularly touched the ball. Do those running instincts disappear over time or can a good running back roll out of bed and find the hole and dodge the linebacker?

"Your mind might feel that way but your body might say otherwise," Bennett said with a laugh. "For the most part, I think if you're an instinctive football player, it stays with you. I do. I believe that. Certainly, your body might disagree but ... he's a very instinctive runner and has a knack for finding that crease and he shows good power."

Despite his collegiate production, Kuhn was moved to fullback upon signing with the Steelers after the 2005 draft. Now, he'll at least get a little taste of the glory instead of continually doing the dirty work.

"It's not something I'm going to shy away (from)," Kuhn said. "I'm going to go at it, full head of steam, and see what happens."


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Bill Huber is publisher of Packer Report magazine and PackerReport.com and has written for Packer Report since 1997. E-mail him at packwriter2002@yahoo.com, or leave him a question in Packer Report's subscribers-only Packers Pro Club forum. Find Bill on Twitter at twitter.com/packerreport and Facebook under Bill Huber.


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