Gado likely starter rest of way

Running back came close to getting pulled against Falcons

How close was Green Bay rookie running back Samkon Gado to being known as just another replacement starter in an injury-riddled backfield, rather than the instant hero he became Sunday?

Head coach Mike Sherman, who has next-to-zero tolerance for fumbles, acknowledged Monday that Gado's pair of near-fatal miscues almost cut short his first NFL start and could have cost the Packers the 33-25 upset victory they scored at Atlanta.

"If those weren't recovered by our guys, we wouldn't necessarily be talking about him right now," Sherman said. "That could have been the turning point in the ballgame. So, we're fortunate that that wasn't the turning point in the ballgame and we were able to jump on those balls. ... He needs to hang on to the football better."

A week earlier, in a home loss to Pittsburgh, ReShard Lee got the start at halfback but was promptly yanked by Sherman after turning the ball over on just his second carry of the game. Thus began the improbable emergence of Gado, who took over the lead role in that game and ran 26 times for 62 yards.

Incidentally, Gado mishandled his second carry Sunday but was spared the quick hook from Sherman when fullback Vonta Leach recovered the ball.

"In fairness, I'm not going to let them turn the ball over," Sherman said. "It wasn't a turnover, so I didn't (bench Gado). But, he knows how I feel about that. He told me it wouldn't happen again. He did get hit pretty solidly on that first fumble. (But) not to make excuses for him, he has to hang on to the football."

Gado made amends in short order, completing that same possession with a 9-yard touchdown run. He then scored on a 1-yard shovel pass from Brett Favre, following a fumble by Falcons counterpart Warrick Dunn, to put the Packers up 14-0.

He later atoned for another fumble, which was recovered by receiver Andrae Thurman, by running in a 2-yard touchdown late in the fourth quarter to seal the victory.

It also capped a monster day by the unknown Gado, who went undrafted out of Division I-AA Liberty and was signed to Green Bay's practice squad only four weeks earlier. He gained 103 yards in 25 carries, becoming the first Packer to reach the century mark this season.

Although there's a chance Tony Fisher will be ready to return to action after being out the last two games with a broken rib, indications are Gado will remain the starter for the game Monday night against Minnesota.

"There's a lot of good things about Sam that make him a good first-down back, and Fisher has really established himself as a third-down back," offensive coordinator Tom Rossley said. "I think we would probably let the backs do what they do best."


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