Is Davenport's time running out?'s Doug Ritchay explains in his column why time is running out for the oft-injured Najeh Davenport. The running back will have to have solid outings in the next two games if he is going to be part of the Packers this season, Ritchay says.

Najeh Davenport once again is making news this training camp with the Green Bay Packers, but it isn't the type of news the Packers hoped for. After struggling with injuries during his first four seasons, Davenport was expected to challenge for the starting running back position, but injuries once again in camp have gotten Davenport on the wrong side of coach Mike McCarthy. It is conceivable, if Ahman Green and Samkon Gado play well during the final two weeks of camp Davenport could be released in favor of Arliss Beach or Noah Herron, who could assume the No. 3 running back spot.

If that's the case, Davenport would leave Green Bay known more for what he left behind in a college dorm room one evening more than what he ever did in Green Bay. Certainly, Davenport wants to make news on the field, but he doesn't show the toughness you would expect from an NFL running back.

Davenport's latest setback is a strained hip flexor. I'm not saying he isn't injured, but at some point you need players on the field, not on the sideline, though, he did return to practice on Friday.

"Player injuries I really can't control," McCarthy said. "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."

Davenport's talent has been obvious when he has played. Before last season, in which he missed 11 games with a broken right ankle, Davenport's career yards-per-carry average was a fat 5.1. That's Barry Sandersesque.

Speaking of Sanders, in Davenport's first NFL start he rushed for a career-high 178 yards against St. Louis. Sanders-like numbers.

The Packers would love Davenport to get healthy, since the numbers show he can be effective. That's why they inked him to a one-year, $585,000 contract this off-season. The one year sends a signal Davenport better be good and healthy. Davenport's lack of health is also why the deal was just for one year and the money was the minimum for a player with his experience. Because of this, you would have expected Davenport to start camp like a man possessed. He's in the best spot among the three contenders at running back, since he was healthy enough to play the first two preseason games (how ironic is that), while Green and Gado were not.

Entering Monday's game at Cincinnati, Davenport has 41 yards on 17 carries during the preseason. The numbers are tainted in part because the offensive line has struggled.

But, if Davenport continues to be sidelined with injuries, his time in Green Bay may be winding down. He has never played 16 games in a season, has been injured in some fashion each year of his career, and for his career he has played 39 of 64 games (61 percent).

If Davenport could've shed his label as an injury-prone player this preseason, there's a chance the starting job at running back would already be a done deal. However, Davenport didn't do that. It's hard to criticize him if he really is injured, but nobody really knows but him. I remember during Edgar Bennett's career, when he played with a shoulder which looked like it lost a fight with a meat grinder.

Also, Dorsey Levens shredding New England's defense during the 1997 season with a broken clavicle.

These guys proved their worth, which was far more than Davenport's today. My guess is if Davenport doesn't take a cue from his running backs coach (Bennett) or Levens, he may be trading in his playbook in a couple weeks for an airline ticket. Two things teams can't have are players who continually get injured and players who are not tough. Teams need reliable players and right now Davenport doesn't fit that mold.

Doug Ritchay

Editor's note: Doug Ritchay is a longtime sportswriter and former Packers beat writer for the Green Bay News-Chronicle. E-mail at

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