Good first impression

Gado gives Packers depleted backfield a lift

Samkon Gado didn't fit in the backfield plans with Kansas City, not with Priest Holmes and Larry Johnson eating up the carries.

The undrafted rookie from Nigeria, though, may have a future in Green Bay. Actually, Gado is very much a part of what the slumping, injury-riddled Packers are trying to get accomplished in the present.

Signed only three weeks ago to the practice squad, after he had been released a couple weeks earlier from the Chiefs' taxi unit, Gado has made the meteoric, improbable rise to No. 1 on the depth chart at running back for at least the short term. Coach Mike Sherman said Gado would be the starter Sunday at Atlanta, provided Tony Fisher has to miss more time because of a broken rib.

Gado was pressed into full-time duty during Sunday's 20-10 loss to Pittsburgh. Sherman yanked ReShard Lee after the fill-in starter fumbled on only his second carry and rode the 5-foot-10, 226-pound Gado the rest of the way.

The coaches didn't ease Gado into the newfound position. His number was called 26 times, out of which he produced 62 yards. Both numbers are single-game highs this season for the Packers' anemic run game, which ranks last in the league in average yards per carry (3.0) and 30th in average yards per game (71.9).

The Packers aren't necessarily counting on Gado to significantly spike the lowly output as they try to salvage what's left of a 1-7 season. After all, he's only 22 years old, started just two games his entire college career at Division I-AA Liberty and was referred to by offensive coordinator Tom Rossley only two days before Sunday's game as being "really green."

Yet there were encouraging signs from his effort against the Steelers' vaunted run defense that Gado can do some good for a shaky offense that is without top backs Ahman Green and Najeh Davenport for the rest of the season.

"I wouldn't say he made a splash, but he made some ripples the other day. And we certainly have recognized him," Sherman said. "He has to continue to develop. He made some nice runs. (But) he missed some cuts we would have liked to have seen him make. He still has to be considered a work in progress, but he's certainly worth working with."

Gado blew away the scouts and coaches during his pre-signing workout by ripping off a time of 4.43 seconds in the 40-yard dash.

"He's got a little acceleration that just jumps out at you," Rossley said.

Gado took his first official NFL run 8 yards in an Oct. 30 loss at Cincinnati. Two of his first four carries Sunday went for 8 and 10 yards.

He admittedly wasn't overwhelmed by getting his first extensive action since high school. He even forsook taking a leap into the Lambeau Field stands following his 1-yard touchdown run in the third quarter, simply overjoyed that he could retrieve the football, the first he's ever owned.

"If this is just a one-week thing, then I'm grateful for the opportunity," Gado said. "If there's more, I'll be even more appreciative."


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