Kregg Lumpkin can run.
But he can't run hard enough or fast enough to elude the injury bug that has stalked him throughout his career.
Injuries have been a constant plague for one of the nation's top-ranked running backs coming out of high school. During the first game of his senior season at Georgia, he broke a thumb while trying to break a fall. That cost him four games. When he returned, he got hit low and high and wound up sustaining knee and ankle injuries that kept him out for the rest of the regular season.
And that's not mentioning the biggest injury of them all: the torn knee ligament suffered in workouts between his freshman and sophomore seasons.
So, if Lumpkin's surprising training camp and productive preseason last summer — which enabled him to beat out DeShawn Wynn, Noah Herron and Vernand Morency for a roster spot as an undrafted free agent — was a surprise, the end of his season was not. After emerging as one of many bright spots in the Week 2 victory at Detroit, Lumpkin sustained a hamstring injury. Hamstring problems were a nuisance at Georgia, too, and this one landed him on season-ending injured reserve.
"It was frustrating," Lumpkin told Packer Report last week. "You've just got to stay healthy. Stay healthy, get better on offense and go out there and perform."
Lumpkin has been doing just that during the offseason practices. Just like last year, when he had to beat out proven veterans Herron and Morency as well as 2007 seventh-round pick Wynn, Lumpkin has to prove himself.
Starter Ryan Grant is a lock and Brandon Jackson, a second-round pick in 2006, is a safe bet to make the roster, too. That leaves Lumpkin, Wynn — who made a couple of big plays in limited action when he took Lumpkin's roster spot last season — and undrafted rookie Tyrell Sutton battling to be the third halfback on the roster.
"Yeah, I understand that, but I've been doing that pretty much all my life; just proving that I can play," Lumpkin said. "When I get my opportunities, I have to go out there and showcase my talent."
The Packers clearly haven't given up on Lumpkin, even though he appears to be behind Wynn on the depth chart. For one, he's a quality receiving threat, which he showed with seven catches for 59 yards and a touchdown in the preseason and three catches for 22 yards against the Lions in Week 2. On two of those plays, he appeared to be the primary target.
"Well, all the running backs have a different aspect," Lumpkin said in downplaying his good hands. "I'm not going to single myself out and say I've got one thing that's better than anybody else."
Plus, he's one of the early candidates to bolster the NFL's last-ranked kickoff return unit. He returned only one kickoff in college.
"Oh, yeah," he said about the value of being more than just a runner. "Just being a multi-task player adds value. Wherever the coach wants me to go, I'm going to make the best of my opportunities. I enjoy (returning kickoffs). It's another way to get on the field and showcase my talent."
Of course, none of this means a thing if the 228-pound Lumpkin can't bully through the one thing that's continually hampered his career.
"I've just gotta stay healthy," he said.
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Bill Huber is publisher of Packer Report magazine and PackerReport.com and has written for Packer Report since 1997. E-mail him at firstname.lastname@example.org, or leave him a question in Packer Report's subscribers-only Packers Pro Club forum. Bill also is giving Facebook and Twitter a try. Find him on Twitter at twitter.com/packerreport and Facebook.