As an undrafted rookie running back from Georgia in 2008, the hard-charging Lumpkin had a strong Family Night Scrimmage and led the Packers in rushing in the preseason with 153 yards (4.0 average) and a touchdown, plus caught seven passes with another touchdown. He won a roster spot over established players Vernand Morency, Noah Herron and DeShawn Wynn.
After being deactivated for the Week 1 win over Minnesota, Lumpkin carried once for 19 yards and caught three passes for 22 yards in a Week 2 victory at Detroit. It looked like the 5-foot-11, 228-pounder had found a niche in the offense. Lumpkin, however, strained his hamstring the following week. When he aggravated the injury at practice a few weeks later, the Packers put him on season-ending injured reserve.
The tackle-breaking style that endeared Lumpkin to fans and the coaches as a rookie wasn't as evident last summer. He wasn't as productive in training camp and fumbled too often, and rushed for only 95 yards (3.5 average) with no receptions in the preseason. This time, the Packers went with Wynn over Lumpkin — with Lumpkin released among the final cuts but brought back to the practice squad. When Wynn went down with a season-ending knee injury after four games, the Packers brought in Ahman Green rather than promote Lumpkin.
Healthy and mentally sharper after a year on the practice squad, Lumpkin was happy to be competing at organized team activities last week.
"Exactly. Exactly. Excited," he said after beating fellow running back Brandon Jackson in a game of "basketball" involving tape and a waste basket.
"It's going good," he continued. "Just getting back into things. I'm excited to be out there again."
Just like 2008, the odds are against Lumpkin. With Ryan Grant and Jackson entrenched as the one-two punch, the Packers invested a sixth-round pick in James Starks, a productive runner and receiver from Buffalo. Undrafted rookie Quinn Porter also is in the mix. And if all else fails, Green is unemployed, remains in Green Bay area and wants to play another year.
"It's always a challenge," Lumpkin said. "Everybody's out here competing for jobs and positions and spots on the team. It's always going to be a challenge."
Staying healthy has been a challenge for Lumpkin, too. At Georgia, he missed his sophomore year with a torn ACL and played in just five games as a senior with another knee injury. At the one practice open to reporters last week, Lumpkin stood out by making a sweet one-handed catch on a poorly thrown screen.
"I like him a lot. He's a good, hard-working guy," offensive coordinator Joe Philbin said. "I think he's got a chance to contribute. He's got some size for (pass) protection. Those guys, if you're not the lead ball-carrier, you've got to have some versatility, you've got to be able to protect the quarterback. You've got to be sound in your blitz pickups and obviously you've got to contribute running the ball and maybe on special teams. If he can stay healthy, he's a competitive guy and he's got ability. He's going to be in a competitive situation."
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