Wells in, Klemm out at guard

Packers hoping backup center will spark rushing attack

Scott Wells remains the Packers' center of the future. Yet he's become their left guard of the present.

As a way to try to breathe some life into the team's anemic running game, coach Mike Sherman has pulled struggling veteran Adrian Klemm out of the starting lineup and replaced him with Wells for Sunday's game at Atlanta.

"I guess it's like, 'Let's try something new and see if it works out and we can move the ball,'" said Wells, a second-year player who will make his first pro start at guard.

Sherman and offensive line coach Larry Beightol informed Wells and Klemm of the change Wednesday.

Wells had been backing up Pro Bowl center Mike Flanagan and recently started two games while Flanagan was recovering from Oct. 5 surgery for a sports hernia.

Klemm, whom the Packers signed to a two-year contract as a free agent in the off-season, was disappointed about the news but has accepted it.

"We're 1-7. We've only won one game. They just said they wanted to shake things up a bit, and they wanted to make some changes, and I was the change they made," he said.

Klemm primarily played tackle in five injury-marred seasons with New England. First-year Packers general manager Ted Thompson targeted him as a replacement at left guard for Mike Wahle, who departed for Carolina in free agency, but Klemm didn't make the adjustment to the inside so easily.

His inability to be the effective, if not formidable, run blocker that Wahle was the past few seasons forced the coaching staff to scale back the offense's tried-and-true power runs to the outside with the left guard pulling as the lead blocker.

Of course, it hasn't helped that the Packers are set to start their fifth running back of the season Sunday - undrafted rookie Samkon Gado. Pro Bowl halfback Ahman Green and top backup Najeh Davenport suffered season-ending leg injuries last month. Third-down back Tony Fisher, who was elevated to the starting spot two games ago, is out indefinitely with a broken rib.

Green Bay ranks 30th in the league with an average of 71.9 rushing yards per game - more than 48 yards less than last year. Two years ago, the Packers rushed for a franchise-record 2,558 yards.

The lowest single-season output in team history is 85.6 yards per game in 1990.

"I don't know if that was the reason or not," said Wells, when asked whether this week's change at guard was solely intended to get the running game on track. "If it is, then it's a huge challenge and a great opportunity for me. If we are able to get the run game going, it would be huge and would be great for a jump-start to the second half."

Wells, at 6-foot-2, is short by NFL standards for the position but is quick and tenacious on his feet. A three-time Tennessee high school state champion in wrestling, Wells also uses tremendous leverage.

Wells played guard in three of the four preseason games as he battled Klemm for the starting spot. Although he was called on to pull on a run play only twice, the coaches believe Wells is better equipped than Klemm to handle the movement in space. Consequently, the Packers figure to give the power runs a try again, if in moderation.

Plus, there's no hesitancy on the coaches' part to throw Wells in against Falcons stalwart Rod Coleman, who leads all defensive tackles in the league with seven sacks and has forced three fumbles.

The soft-spoken Wells will bring a cocksure attitude to the field Sunday.

"He's a good player, and, obviously, he's made a lot of good plays," Wells said. "But, he's blockable. If you can really scout him on tape, try to pick things up and really focus and concentrate on your technique and fundamentals, then he's blockable. Same with anybody else. He's a man."

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