Opportunity knocks again for Gado

Is Samkon Gado the running back of the future for the Green Bay Packers? Not if it is up to Ahman Green or Najeh Davenport. However, Gado has the inside track of entering the season as the team's featured back, and possibly for years to come.

Samkon Gado again will get plenty of practice with the first-team offense at running back as the Green Packers conduct their second off-season mini-camp, beginning Friday. For Gado, it will only increase his chances of becoming Green Bay's starter for the regular season opener and beyond.

"You can never get too many reps, especially with somebody in my shoes," Gado said. "I'm still learning. I don't have a lot of reps under me, in college and even here. So the more I can get, the better prepared I will be for when Ahman Green and Najeh Davenport come back."

Gado, out of Liberty University, played in only eight games but led the Packers with 582 rushing yards and set a club rookie record with six touchdowns on the ground. He missed the final two games because of a partially torn medial collateral ligament in his right knee, but he is back to normal and ready to pick up where he left off.

Gado, 23, seemed comfortable in the team's new zone-blocking scheme during the first mini-camp earlier this month. He also displayed the quick burst through the slightest of openings that helped him succeed last year.

Green, 29, is coming off a ruptured quadriceps injury sustained last October. The veteran's determination to get back up to speed is impressive. He has put himself ahead of the curve for that kind of injury by spending countless hours this off-season rehabbing at the Packers' facilities. Green is strong as an ox, but his tender right quadriceps tendons need time to fully recover. This has turned out to be Green's biggest obstacle.

"I'm not going to lie, I am champing at the bit. But I know I have to be patient," Green said. "Once I get out there, I know I'm going to be 100 percent. But I can't rush it. I have to be patient and be prepared when I go out there."

It is highly unlikely that Green will be ready to participate in team drills when training camp opens in late July. Even if he was ready, the coaches will hold him back. The best-case scenario is that Green will begin practicing late in training camp and hope to suit up on opening day as Gado's backup.

Najeh Davenport, another running back that wound up on the season-ending injured reserve list last year, is not expected to participate in this weekend's mini-camp, either. He is recovering from a broken right ankle sustained two weeks before Green was injured. Davenport, 27, has been running under the guidance of team doctors, and may participate in the team's Organized Team Activities, which begin on May 31. Still, he will be limited when training camp opens.

With Green and Davenport still hobbled by their injuries, the door is wide open for Gado. This is his chance to prove that he belongs in the NFL as a permanent starter. He has a golden opportunity, and the thing about Gado is he knows it. He'll make the most of it, which could ultimately help him become the opening day starter for the Packers in 2007 as well.

Todd Korth

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

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