PITTSBURGH – Najeh Davenport said he's not in decline and doesn't know why the Green Bay Packers gave up on the 27-year-old running back.
"They had their own reasons," he said. "There's a saying that goes … I forgot what the saying is, but they've got their own reasons."
Part of the reason is that Davenport missed 42 percent of the possible action in his four pro seasons because of injuries, and part of the reason is the Green Bay Packers hired Mike McCarthy as their new coach this season and he brought in a new system that wouldn't involve the 250-pound Davenport.
But part of the reason, Davenport says, does not have to do with the fact that he averaged only 3.5 yards per carry before he broke his ankle in the sixth game last season. It was by far his lowest per-rush average, but he said it doesn't indicate a decline.
"My running stats were lower because we'd just traded off two of our top guards and we had two new guys from different systems coming in," Davenport said. "We were more like a counter team back then so we were pulling those guards and they really didn't get the gist of when to go in and when to go out, so that's why our whole team average dropped from a running standpoint."
After averaging 4.3 yards per carry in 2004, the Packers allowed All-Pro guards Mike Wahle and Marco Rivera to leave via free agency. They were replaced by journeyman free agent Adrian Klemm and seventh-round draft pick William Whitticker. The Packers' rushing average slipped to 3.40 yards per carry, their lowest average since 1977.
The release of Davenport left him with "a little chip on my shoulder," he said. "I've got something to prove."
He can prove it behind some of the best guard play in the NFL. Alan Faneca and Kendall Simmons have been known to pull on counters every now and then.
"Yeah, I noticed that," Davenport said with a laugh. "That's why it's a powerhouse. And they can go downhill, so that's even better."
Davenport had his weight down to 243 before the 2005 season in order to avoid injury, but he broke his ankle. He's now weighing 250, or three pounds above his listed weight.
"I like the big-back thing," he said. "I went to Miami [Hurricanes] because they had James Stewart, so I'm just a big fan of the big-back system."
Hines Ward was the only player to miss Wednesday's practice. He's listed as questionable with his tender hamstring. Ben Roethlisberger and safety Troy Polamalu (shoulder) are also listed as questionable.
Five players are listed as questionable for the Jacksonville Jaguars: tight end Mercedes Lewis (ankle), linebacker Mike Peterson (knee), safety Gerald Sensabaugh (ankle), defensive end Paul Spicer (groin) and defensive tackle Marcus Stroud (ankle). Defensive end Reggie Hayward was put on injured reserve earlier in the week.
NFL officials changed the rushing yardage for Charlie Batch's fourth-quarter fumble last Thursday night. Instead of crediting Batch with one carry for negative three yards, the play was deemed an aborted play and Batch was instead credited with a rush for zero yards. It gave him 20 yards rushing in the game. The Steelers instead finished the game with 146 yards rushing and 342 yards of net offense.
EX-STEELERS RECEIVE ATTENTION
Former Steelers running back Patrick Cobbs signed with the Miami Dolphins' practice squad.
Also, three former Steelers had tryouts this week: Chidi Iwouma with Cleveland; Andre Frazier with San Francisco; and Zach Baker with Seattle.
Omar Jacobs, the rookie quarterback released from the Steelers' practice squad on Tuesday, still has a locker full of his belongings, leading to speculation that Jacobs will soon return to the team.
Roethlisberger on his college coach Terry Hoeppner, who underwent brain surgery yesterday for the second time in eight months:
"We talked [Tuesday] morning. He wanted to inform me of everything that was going on before I heard about it from all you guys. We talked and he's like a father to me. I love him to death. I know he'll be okay because he's a fighter and a competitor. The way he made it out to me, it's not as serious as everyone's making it out to be. He'll be okay. He's a fighter."
Notebook: Najeh, Troy, Hines, Omar
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