Interview With ... John Kuhn

Once again, we seem to be the only place presenting real Packers news. In our interview with versatile running back John Kuhn, he talks about the missing offseason program, being "just" a fullback, the secret to short-yardage success and the coolest thing of his offseason.

Packer Report talked to Packers running back John Kuhn on Friday. On Saturday, we wrote that Kuhn would like to remain with the Packers but will keep his options open in free agency. Here is the rest of our 12-minute interview with the versatile and popular Kuhn.

Coach McCarthy makes such a big deal of his offseason program, but this year, you won't have one at all. Is that a problem or could a case be made that you guys could use the rest after a long season?

I think it's important to take note that we're not the only ones missing the offseason program. The offseason program is very important and we love doing it and we do a good job with it, but unfortunately, we missed it this year. It's important to note that it's not just us. It's every team across the league. Everybody's handicapped by the same rule. It is what it is. When this thing finally gets settled, we'll have to get in there and get back to work and put the right foot forward.

How fun was your season on a personal note?

It was an extremely fun season. Aside from the fact that the team did so fantastic last year, playing such a big role was really fun. People say it was a ‘breakout year' but I just couldn't take a chance and take a deep breath and really look at it and say, ‘Wow, I really did. I played halfback and it was fun and I did pretty well.' That in itself makes me pretty happy and it's something to build off going into this year.

Ryan Grant is coming back, James Starks looks like a player and they drafted another back (Alex Green). Would you miss getting the ball if you're back to playing a traditional fullback?

You know what, not really. I loved getting the football. Getting the football is something great and being a part of the offense is always something that you want to be a part of. But if not, it doesn't bother me. I came into the league playing fullback. I played that for five years before last season and that's something I'm completely comfortable with. I know I'm a fullback at heart and I know that's where the Packers like me. I'm completely comfortable with it, but at the same time, if they want to throw me a couple of bones, I'll take it and run with it.

According to STATS, you ranked third in the NFL in short-yardage running. Knowing you, you'll deflect the credit, but what is the secret to that success?

You can twist that anyway you want to so they look and sound good but I think the important part when it comes to short-yardage and goal-line running is you've got to get that one little yard. Sometimes, it's not exactly how it's drawn up. You've got to stick your nose down and try to push forward and get that little bit of an edge. It all comes down to first and second down and how you set things up. It's fun being able to go in and be successful on those short-yardage plays.

Is there something to be said for it coming down to instinct after being a big-time runner at Shippensburg?

I think a little bit of it might come back to getting the ball so much in college. I was pretty successful but I think a lot of it has got to go to the offensive line, has got to go to the offensive coordinator. It's not just myself. I know my name gets written down on the stats but there's 11 guys out there playing their butts off to make that successful.

How cool is it to hear 72,000 fans yelling "Kuuuhn!"?

You know, that's really special and that's something that started maybe two years ago but really came alive last year with getting the football. That's something I really take to heart and I love the fact that Packers fans have been so kind to me and been so warm and welcoming. I really like the fact that they support me as much as they do as a player. It's really something special.

"Journeyman" is the wrong word but you were kind of just one of the guys. Then you became a folk hero. Could you have imagined any of this happening?

It's funny, I think the fact that I'm playing in Wisconsin, in Green Bay, the only city with right around 100,000 people, I think it's kind of fitting that it all came together like this. I think the journey that it took to get me where I'm at, the fact that I'm hard-working and a little bit blue-collar, I think the fans of Wisconsin kind of can relate to that and maybe that's why they are so welcoming to me.

Assuming you re-sign, what is the big challenge in defending the championship?

Last season was such a roller-coaster ride for us. We had so many injuries, we had ups and downs. We were very good and people were calling us great, and then we were very bad and people were counting us out, then we were great again. It really is a roller-coaster ride. I think the key is to take things one week at a time instead of talking about a repeat. Just go into the preseason, make sure we're healthy, get to the regular season fully staffed and then play it one game at a time and let's see where the chips fall.

Along those lines, I remember after the Detroit game, fans pretty much gave up on the season, and then you lost to New England. All of a sudden, you got hot. When did you guys think the Super Bowl was a realistic possibility?

We believed the whole year. I know that sounds cliché to say but our team was so confident and so set on the final goal that we knew how great we could be. It seemed like every week there for awhile we were just taking another hit with a guy going down or a heartbreaking loss. It was like, ‘How much more could we withstand?' But we always believed, we always truly felt that we were the best team on any given Sunday. I think it was after the New England game, it was such a heartbreaking loss and the reporters came in and were telling us that, ‘Since the Giants lost today, you guys hold your own destiny, believe it or not.' I think that kind of opened everybody's eyes. ‘Here we go, it's crunch time. We've got two more games left. Let's win them all and get in and do some damage in the playoffs.'

A lot of teams, with that many injuries, would have given up. I forget the exact stat, but teams with that many starters on IR haven't won more than six games over the last 15 or 20 years. Where did the strength come from to keep plugging along?

I truly believe that it's the fact that when you walk in that stadium, when you walk in those facilities every day, everyone is treated equally in there. Whether or not you're a starter or a journeyman or you come in and play special teams or you're a practice-squad guy, guys got bumped up last year and came in and played a pivotal role. Every guy, all the way across the board, knew that they were going to contribute. It was great to see that everybody could contribute. I think that alone, nobody wanted to let their teammates down. I think the coaches did a great job of letting everybody know that, ‘You are a part of this.'

How cool was ring night?

That was fantastic. The Packers did such a terrific job of unveiling that and making it something special, something to cherish for all of the players. Fortunately enough, I was able to do that with Pittsburgh several years back but this one was a little extra special.

Have you been back home (to York, Pa.), and if so, what's that been like?

It's been a lot of fun. Everybody wants to see a Super Bowl champion, everyone wants you to come by and say hi and congratulate you. It's been a lot of fun. Anytime you make a trip back home and see some friends and family that you haven't seen in a long time, especially after something like a Super Bowl win, it's always something to cherish.

What's the coolest thing you've done as a Super Bowl champion?

Throwing out the first pitch at the Milwaukee Brewers game with a couple of my teammates for Opening Day was something special. It was a really neat experience and something I'll probably never forget. It was a lot of fun. Who gets to throw out the first pitch on an Opening Day game?


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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.


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