Lumpkin healthy, making run at roster spot

The running back went undrafted after an injury-plagued career at Georgia and is pushing Morency, Herron and Wynn for a roster spot.

Injuries have haunted Packers running back DeShawn Wynn. Ditto for Kregg Lumpkin.

Wynn's nagging injuries — this time, a sprained ankle that has limited his preseason to four ineffective carries — have his NFL career on hold. Or perhaps in jeopardy.

That Lumpkin could be the beneficiary is one of those funny things in life.

That's because injuries followed Lumpkin during his college career like a lost Georgia Bulldog.

"Knee injury. Broken thumb. Hamstrings," Lumpkin rattled off with a smile after Wednesday's practice. "I guess it all comes with the territory of being a running back."

Lumpkin was one of the hottest recruits in the nation coming out of Stephenson (Ga.) High School, but injuries derailed his collegiate career from the get-go. First, there was a hamstring injury that cost him the first two games of his freshman season, and a high ankle sprain diminished his productivity later in the year.

During that offseason, he tore the anterior cruciate ligament in his left knee, causing him to take a redshirt season. The coaching staff brought Lumpkin along slowly during the 2005 season, and he won the starting job part of the way through 2006, when he rushed for 798 yards and six touchdowns.

A broken thumb in the season opener and knee and ankle injuries later in the year, however, all but ruined his senior season — as well as his NFL dreams. He carried the ball a mere 12 times, and that's hardly the way to open the eyes of scouts.

Thus, it was no surprise Lumpkin wasn't drafted, and he wound up signing with the Packers.

"I'm surprised I'm even being given a shot to be part of the Green Bay Packers organization," the 5-foot-11, 228-pound Lumpkin said. "But, I'm glad I have the opportunity and I'm trying to take advantage of every opportunity I get."

He's nearly done that. Through two preseason games, Lumpkin leads the Packers with 87 rushing yards and a gaudy 5.1-yard average. He also has one of the team's two preseason touchdowns, an 11-yarder on a fourth-quarter screen pass against Cincinnati.

"It was a great experience," Lumpkin said of the touchdown, especially compared with his last-minute fumble in that game. "I should have done the Lambeau Leap, but I guess I was kind of gassed."

Lumpkin has impressed the coaches, and has made the most of injuries to starter Ryan Grant and Wynn. With Grant and Brandon Jackson assured jobs, he's battling veterans Vernand Morency and Noah Herron and the oft-injured Wynn to be the third and, possibly, fourth halfbacks on the roster.

McCarthy said Wynn is facing an "uphill" battle to make the roster, and offered plenty of praise for the other backs in the roster picture.

"Vernand Morency is healthy. Frankly, I think this is the best he's looked since he's been here," McCarthy said. "Noah Herron is back from last year, being on IR, he's done a great job, and Lumpkin just keeps improving every opportunity he gets. That's all you can ask for, especially for young players in training camp. We've been unique because we've played young players, and they've improved. But our running back group is a really good example of that."

The play of Morency and Herron are what could keep Lumpkin off the roster. Both are smart players who can catch and pass protect. Plus, they're key parts of the special teams. Morency appears to be ahead of the other contenders, so it might come down to Herron's steady and heady play against Lumpkin's potential.

"It's a lot of competition, but competition always brings out the best in everybody," Lumpkin said.

Lumpkin's career in Green Bay very well could be determined in the final preseason games: Friday at Denver and Thursday at home against Tennessee.

"Go out there and have a great game and try to impress the coaches," Lumpkin said of his goal. "And if not the Green Bay Packers' coaches, then hopefully some team will look at the tape and give me a shot."

Bill Huber is editor of Packer Report and E-mail him at

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