McCarthy to Davenport: Play through pain

"We like the things Najeh has done, but he needs to get out there and play and make our football team just like everybody else," coach Mike McCarthy says after Najeh Davenport missed his third straight practice on Thursday.

There's a coach's saying that goes like this: You can't make the club in the tub.

Najeh Davenport has spent entirely too much time in the tub — the hot tub — battling nagging injuries for Packers coach Mike McCarthy's liking. With the veteran backup running back missing his third consecutive practice with a hip flexor, McCarthy sent a message that was about as subtle as a sledgehammer.

"Player injuries I can't really control," McCarthy said Thursday. "Obviously, you want to see him out there. He's competing for a roster spot. Am I concerned? I'm concerned about what's best for our football team. We like the things Najeh has done, but he needs to get out there and play and make our football team just like everybody else."

In other words, with Ahman Green a lock to make the team, Samkon Gado virtually assured of making the roster and undrafted rookie Arliss Beach catching the coaches' eyes on a daily basis, Davenport's days with the Packers could be numbered.

Davenport's injury problems are nothing new. In his first four seasons, Davenport has played in just 39 of 64 regular-season games, and he's never played an entire 16-game season. For reasons big — like last year's broken right ankle — and small — such as this latest setback and a calf injury that kept him out of six practices earlier in camp, Davenport is not a player the Packers can count on, despite his prodigious talent.

Davenport, who signed a league-minimum one-year, $585,000 contract during the offseason to stay in Green Bay after receiving few nibbles during his first foray into free agency, didn't seem alarmed by McCarthy's statement.

"I'm pretty sure that if I don't play here, I'll be playing somewhere else," Davenport said. "I'm good enough

"Maybe this isn't what God has planned for me. Who's to say? But at the same time, they say the grass isn't always greener. I don't bother myself with it. I know what type of athlete I am, what type of person I am, what type of player I am. If this isn't the place for me, I'm pretty sure I can find a home somewhere."

With his size and the occasional flashes of brilliance, he's probably right, but Davenport has had a poor preseason. Some of it has to do with shoddy blocking, but Davenport has rushed 17 times for 41 yards — a 2.4-yard average — with a long gain of 6 yards during the preseason.

Davenport, however, seems to have lost a step. During Saturday's game against Atlanta, for instance, a strong double team by Chad Clifton and Jason Spitz, an effective block by wide receiver Greg Jennings and a crunching block by fullback Vonta Leach left Davenport with a huge alley, but he was caught from behind before he could exploit the opening, and he was limited to a 5-yard gain.

Lawrence is a regular contributor to Send comments to

Packer Report Top Stories