The locker that Pro Bowl fullback John Kuhn called home at Lambeau Field for the previous nine seasons received a small but noteworthy adjustment at some point in the past two-and-a-half weeks.
At the rookie orientation camp, the locker was empty but still had the familiar “KUHN” nameplate atop the stall. On Tuesday, the locker remained empty but the nameplate had been replaced by a generic “PACKERS.”
It’s possible Kuhn’s name will be on speed dial but, for now, the torch has been passed to second-year player Aaron Ripkowski.
“Player acquisition is year-round so I would never say doors are closed, especially on any of our former players, especially John Kuhn,” coach Mike McCarthy said after Tuesday’s organized team activity. “As far as his situation, we’re focused on the players we have right now. So as far as John and his future, those are probably questions for other people. But I don’t think you ever close the door. But guys filled out our roster and right now we’re working and focusing on these young players.”
After the recent signing of safety Jermaine Whitehead, the Packers have a full 90-man roster. Ripkowski and Alstevis Squirewell, an undrafted rookie who played defensive tackle at Division II Newberry, are the lone fullbacks on the roster. Ripkowski, a sixth-round pick out of Oklahoma in 2015, caught one pass and played mostly on special teams as a rookie. If he bombs during training camp and the preseason, the Packers likely will reach out to Kuhn. For now, though, it’s Ripkowski’s job.
“Disappointed for sure,” quarterback Aaron Rodgers said. “John is a dear friend. It’s tough when you lose guys like that or you show back up in the locker room and they’re not there. That’s part of getting older in the league. You look at the last three or four years — A.J. Hawk, I sat next to him for nine years in the meeting room. His locker was just a couple down from here. James Jones came back to us last year and was our leading receiver. Obviously, he’s not here after a year hiatus before that. And John. Those are three of my closest friends as teammates over the years. You’d love to see guys like be around because you know they can help us win.”
Bill Huber is publisher of PackerReport.com and has written for Packer Report since 1997. E-mail him at email@example.com or leave him a question in Packer Report’s subscribers-only Packers Pro Club forum. Find Bill on Twitter at www.twitter.com/PackerReport.