Heir apparent: Nick Luchey

Editor's note: This is the second in a series of players who are in line to start in the near future for the Green Bay Packers.

William Henderson's stranglehold on the starting fullback job has delayed Nick Luchey's rise as a regular in the Green Bay Packers' backfield. With Henderson coming off a Pro Bowl season, don't count on Luchey surpassing him this season.

However, look for the Packers to turn to Luchey when Henderson's contract expires after 2005.

In his first two seasons with the Packers, Luchey was somewhat of a disappointment. He was supposed to give Henderson a serious challenge for the starting job in 2003 when Green Bay signed him to a six-year, $6 million deal. But Luchey reported to training camp about 25 pounds above his playing weight, was bothered by three injuries in training camp, and basically did not get off to a good start in Green Bay. Last year, he reported to camp in better shape and played well in the preseason, but not good enough for the Packers to release Henderson.

Henderson, playing about 60 percent of the snaps at fullback, went on to have a Pro Bowl season. Luchey gave the Packers added punch in the team's two-tight end, or "U-71" running packages.

Through this off-season, the 34-year-old Henderson has showed no signs of letting up and plans to play a few more seasons in the NFL. Whether the Packers attempt to re-sign Henderson will depend on Luchey's progress this season.

Luchey, 28, is quicker than Henderson and is a good blocker. But he doesn't even come close to conditioning himself like Henderson and has battled weight problems in his pro career. If Luchey is going to be more than Henderson's heir apparent, he'll have to improve his conditioning to show the coaching staff that he is capable of being a steady starter. If not, he may get passed up by second-year pro Vonta Leach, who was promoted from the team's practice squad late last season.

For now, Luchey is Henderson's heir apparent and is in control of his own destiny with the Packers. Henderson is not going anywhere. Entering his 11th season, he still can help the Packers win and clear major holes for Ahman Green. But if Luchey reports to training camp in good condition, take it as a sign that he seriously plans to remain in Green Bay as a starter once Henderson moves on.

Todd Korth

Note: Todd Korth is managing editor of PackerReport.com and Packer Report. E-mail him at packrepted@aol.com.

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