Saturday, July 25, 2009

Brett Favre To The Football World: GOTCHA!



(With apologies to the Grateful Dead)

Arrows of neon and flashing marquees out on main street.
Green Bay, New York, Minnesota and its all on the same street.
Your typical city involved in a typical daydream
Hang it up and see what tomorrow brings.

Brett Favre has done it again. In a unexpected turn of events, after a summer of surgery, workouts and much anticipation, Brett Favre has turned the NFL upside down once more. Like a formula 1 race car driver, Brett has navigated us through the many twists and turns of the course, and we’ve all just been hanging on for the ride.

Brett Favre has notified the Vikings that he is going to stay retired.

In an interview with the Minnesota Star Tribune, Vikings coach Brad Childress said that Favre informed the team he has decided to remain retired. Childress cited the daily grind both mentally and physically as part of the reason why Favre remained retired.

“It was the hardest decision I’ve ever made,” Favre told ESPN’s Ed Werder. “I didn’t feel like physically I could play at a level that was acceptable. I had to be careful not to commit for the wrong reasons. They were telling me, ‘You went through all this, you had the surgery and you’ve got to finish it off.’ But I have legitimate reasons for my decision. I’m 39 with a lot of sacks to my name.”

Favre, who had shoulder surgery in May, experienced soreness in both ankles and his left knee during his private workouts in Mississippi. The pain would not subside and worsened as he continued to prepare for another season in the NFL.

He was concerned that the pain might never subside and could continue to worsen, and he understood that signing and reporting to camp and then leaving prematurely would result in criticism over his decision to play again.

So once again, just as we thought we had Brett Favre figured out, he throws us another curveball. Minnesota is left to put on their best “it doesn’t matter” face and act happy about having Tarvaris Jackson and Sage Rosenfels to lead their offense.

And for Green Bay fans, a huge sigh of relief. Not because they feared Favre playing for the Vikings, but because they feared having to continue to deal with their beloved hero turning his back on them.

So Brett Favre is staying retired. As of today. As the song says, “Hang it up and see what tomorrow brings”.

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You can find more of Jersey Al Bracco’s articles on several sports websites: Jersey Al’s Blog, Packer Chatters , Packers Lounge, NFL Touchdown and Bleacher Report.

Green Bay Packers OFFENSE - Spin the Undrafted Free Agent Wheel of Fortune



Part 2 - OFFENSE

In this two-part series, I am examining the Packer's crop of undrafted free agents and predicting their chances of making the 53-man roster. This was part 1.

With fifteen new undrafted free agents (UFAs) signed in 2009, the Packers are once again spinning the undrafted free agent wheel of fortune. Will the spin produce a winner? Or will we hit bankrupt and go away empty-handed? Recent history indicates we will walk away with at least a consolation prize.

Since 1992, 20 undrafted free agents who signed with the Packers immediately after the draft made the roster coming out of training camp. Currently, there are 20 players on the Packers current roster who entered the league as undrafted free agents.

In each of the last four years, at least one UFA has made the Packers 53-man roster. Will the trend continue in 2009? Lets take a quick look at the candidates on Offense.


TIGHT ENDS - Undrafted Free Agents

Carson Butler (RECENTLY CUT), Michigan. 6'4", 255 lbs, 4.72 40yd time. Ranked 21 out of 89 tight ends by NFLDraftScout.com. Appeared in 29 games as a tight end during his first two and a half seasons on campus, before a coaching and scheme change had him switched to defensive end midway through the 2008 season. Totaled 41 catches for 429 yards and three touchdowns in his two-plus seasons on offense.

Left Michigan with one year of eligibility left. Received a $6,000 signing bonus from the Packers, second-highest of all the UFAs.

Devin Frischknecht, Washington State. 6'3", 258 lbs, 4.83 40yd time. Ranked 25 out of 89 tight ends by NFLDraftScout.com. At Snow Junior college as a sophomore, had 54 catches for 763 yards and nine touchdowns. Transferred to WSU, and in two seasons, started eight of 22 games, with 35 catches for 412 yards and four touchdowns. Considered an average blocker, and a good pass-catching tight end.

Not what the Packers want from a 3rd-string TE.

The Packers have six TE on the roster (seven if you count Havner, trying to be a two-position player)—carried three last year. Sure things: Lee, Finley.Probables: Five-way fight (including Havner) for the third TE spot. Moore is mostly a pass-catcher, so he goes. Humphrey tries to hold off Butler and Havner from taking his spot.

Prediction: The Packers brought in three TE UDFs (two are gone already) because they are hoping to upgrade from Humphrey/Moore. Frischknecht has no shot here.

He could be cut before camp to make room for one of the still un-signed draft picks. As for Butler, I was going to write that if the knee sprain suffered in OTAs is healed, he would have a fighting chance at beating out Tory Humphrey. Evidently, the injury was more serious then expected or the Packers just weren't impressed.

Butler has often landed in coaches' doghouses and has had some anger issues. Perhaps that was a factor. In any case, he is now gone.

The wild card is Havner. If he can prove to be a good enough blocker, the Packers will be tempted to keep him as a LB & TE, saving a roster spot.


RUNNING BACK - Undrafted Free Agent

Tyrell Sutton, Northwestern. 5' 8", 213 lbs, 4.68 40yd time. Ranked 27 out of 146 running backs by NFLDraftScout.com. A four-time letter winner that started 38 of 40 games over four years.

Had 16 career 100-yard rushing games, scored 37 total touchdowns. Finished with over 5,100 all-purpose yards, including 1,200 yards on 149 receptions. A play maker that has great vision and balance, knows how to maximize yards per carry.

Had a horrible Pro day, came in 10lbs overweight, could only do 13 bench press reps and ran that "slow" 4.68 40 yard dash. A variety of injuries has him tagged with the "fragile" label.

The Packers have five RB on the roster. Carried three last year. Sure things: Ryan Grant, Brandon Jackson. Probable: Lumpkin (if he doesn't get hurt).

Prediction: His greatest value to the Packers would be as a third down back—think screen passes. Has good, but not great hands. Made a good initial impression on the coaches at rookie camp, but what will happen when the pads come on? Will he have enough talent to overcome his size at the pro level? He has a shot, but not a good one.

WIDE RECEIVERS - Undrafted Free Agents

Kole Heckendorf, North Dakota State. 6'2", 191 lbs, 4.44 40yd time. Ranked 86 out of 312 Wide receivers by NFLDraftScout.com. Started 42 of 43 career games, scored 17 touchdowns and finished as the all-time leading receiver in school history. At Mosinee, Wisconsin High School, set several Wisconsin State football records. Has worked in a Wisconsin cheese factory (intangibles).

Patrick Williams, Colorado. 6'2", 204 lbs, 4.54 40yd time. Ranked 81 out of 312 Wide receivers by NFLDraftScout.com. Played in 50 games, starting 20. Best season was his senior season, with 30 catches, 322 yds and 2 touchdowns. Not impressive.

Jaron Harris, South Dakota State. 6'0", 193 lbs, 4.46 40yd time. Ranked 76 out of 312 Wide receivers by NFLDraftScout.com. Extremely productive receiver.Three-year starter with 23 career touchdowns. Led league in all receiving categories his senior season while also returning 10 kickoffs for 333 yards, including an 86-yard touchdown. Kick returning could be his ticket. Cousin of Jerry Rice.

Jamarko Simmons, Western Michigan. 6'2", 231 lbs, 4.50 40yd time. Ranked 32 out of 312 Wide receivers by NFLDraftScout.com. Started 35 of the 44 games in which he appeared. A converted running back, he broke Greg Jennings' records to become the all-time leading receiver at Western Michigan.

He scored 17 touchdowns during his college career. Physical, good against the bump and run, excellent hands. Doesn't lack for confidence—has been quoted as saying he thinks he will prove to be one of the top five receivers in the draft, and that his hand's are as good as Larry Fitzgerald's.

The Packers have 11 WR on the roster—carried five last year. Sure things: Jennings, Driver, Nelson, Jones.Probables: Martin, Swain battling for last spot. Jake Allen will be cut. Only chance for any of these free agents is if the Packers decide to keep six WR's. Impetus would be if one of the FA WRs could be the kickoff returner they are desperately looking for.

Prediction: Can any of these guys beat out Ruvell Martin and Brett Swain? It would be tough, but there are some talented players here.

We'll start with the easy one—Williams has no-shot. Simmons got the most attention when he was signed, but Heckendorf and Harris are just as good. All three of these guys have been their team's No.1 receiver, have shown durability, have set school records and produced when it counted.

Simmons is unusual because of his size. He actually finished his senior season at 240lbs. He is the most ready of the three UFAs. He has faced the better competition and excelled against the toughest opponents. His size should make him an asset on special teams.

Heckendorf, the home-state Wisconsin boy, reminds me of Jordy Nelson, but not as strong. Being too similar to Nelson probably works against him, although he has been a pleasant surprise in OTAs. I think he is a mid-camp cut.

To me, the sleeper here could be Jaron Harris. He has the speed bursts to separate from defenders, runs good routes and reminds me of a young Donald Driver. He was also a very productive kickoff returner his whole college career.

Curiously, reports out of Packers mini-camp state that he was not given a chance at returning kicks. I hope that changes in training camp. The problem with Harris is that he is very raw. He only played one year of High School football and was red-shirted his first year in college. He's probably not ready for this level, but is a definite practice squad keeper.


OFFENSIVE LINE - Undrafted Free Agents

OG/C Evan Detrich-Smith, Idaho State. 6'2", 305 lbs, 5.13 40 yd dash. Ranked 64 out of 183 Offensive tackles by NFLDraftScout.com. Started 44 games for Idaho State and played all five line positions. Named Team MVP his senior season. The Packers outbid the Jets to sign Detrich-Smith, topping the Jets offer several times. Lacks the ideal height for a tackle, Packers are giving him a shot at guard and center.

OT Dane Randolph, Maryland. 6'5", 300 lbs, 5.15 40 yd dash. Ranked 34 out of 183 Offensive tackles by NFLDraftScout.com. Played in 43 games and started 24 games at right tackle for the Terps.

A weight room warrior, put on 40 lbs while at Maryland. Had fourth highest strength index on the team. Lost some playing time his senior season because of inconsistent play. Being looked at primarily as a tackle.

OG/OT Andrew Hartline, Central Michigan. 6'5", 297 lbs, 5.02 40 yd dash. Ranked 24 out of 183 Offensive tackles by NFLDraftScout.com. Started all 52 games of his College Career, the second longest streak in NCAA history. Played two years at right tackle and switched to left tackle his junior year.

Made first-team all-MAC at left tackle as a senior and a second-team choice as a junior. Very good straight-line speed, but lacks the foot speed for an NFL tackle—that's why the Packers are looking at him at the guard spot. Strong arms, very good run blocker and should be good at pulling on the sweep.

The Packers have 14 OL on the roster—The Packers carried nine last year.

Sure things: Colledge, Clifton, Sitton, Spitz. Probables: Moll, Preston, Barbre, Giacomini, Lang, Meredith. That's 10 already, and it's also assuming last year's center, Scott Wells is out of a spot.

Prediction: This is a really interesting group of linemen. Randolph is not ready for this level, but his size, strength and athletic ability means he is a target for further development on the practice squad.

Detrich-Smith has played every OL position, plays tough and will be a difficult cut, but he's the victim of the numbers game at OL.

I think Hartline could be the guy to make the roster outright. The Packers released Nevin McCaskill in June and put Hartline at second string left guard during mini camp. Presence of T.J. Lang is a possible road block, if the Packers move Lang back inside (right now, he's getting a shot at RT).

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You can find more of Jersey Al Bracco’s articles on several sports websites: NFL Touchdown, Packer Chatters , Packers Lounge, Bleacher Report and of course, Jersey Al’s Blog .

Thursday, July 16, 2009

Green Bay Packers Defense Spinning the Undrafted Free Agent Wheel of Fortune



In this 2-part series, I will examine the Packer’s crop of undrafted free agents and predict their chances of making the 53-man roster:

With fourteen new undrafted free agents (UFAs) signed in 2009, the Packers are once again spinning the “Undrafted Free Agent Wheel of Fortune”. Will the spin produce a winner or will they hit bankrupt and go away empty-handed? Recent history indicates the Packers will walk away with at least a consolation prize.

Since 1992, 20 undrafted free agents who signed with the Packers immediately after the draft made the roster coming out of training camp. Presently there are twenty players on the Packers current roster who entered the league as undrafted free agents.

In each of the last four years, at least one UFA has made the Packers 53-man roster. Will the trend continue in 2009? Lets first take a quick look at the candidates.


Part 1 - DEFENSE


CORNERBACK - Undrafted Free Agent

Trevor Ford, Troy / Florida State. 6′ 0′, 188 lbs, 4.48 40 yd dash. Ranked 76th out of 312 cornerbacks by NFLDraftScout.com. Transferred from Florida State to Troy after freshman year. Sat out sophomore year, played in 7 games as a junior and started every game as a senior. Signed by the Packers after a tryout invitation to their rookie camp.

The Packers currently have nine cornerbacks on the roster - they carried 5 last year.
Sure things: Woodson, Harris, Williams, Blackmon. Probables: Lee, Bush and Underwood battle for a spot. They could carry 6, since both Bush and Underwood can double as safeties. While I list Blackmon as a “sure thing”, that’s primarily because of his kick-returning. If a good kick-returner could be found elsewhere on the roster, his spot could be in jeopardy - but that’s not likely. Little chance here for Trevor Ford.

Prediction: Trevor Ford - no shot at roster spot. Could be cut before camp to make room for one of the still unsigned draft picks.

NOSE TACKLE - Undrafted Free Agent

Dean Muhtadi, Maryland. 6′ 3″, 295 lbs, 4.98 40 yd dash. Ranked 66th out of 158 defensive tackles by NFLDraftScout.com. Division III transfer who played in 13 games as a senior, starting three. Highest GPA on the team. Signed by the Packers after a tryout invitation to their rookie camp.

The Packers currently have four nose tackles on the roster - only two will be kept.
Sure Things: Pickett and Raji. Now that Jolly’s court case has been put off, he will provide the depth at the NT position and probably be in the rotation at DE.

Prediction: Dean Muhtadi - Much less of a shot with Jolly now available. Ability to play DE a plus. Will compete with Anthony Toribio for a practice squad spot.

DEFENSIVE END - Undrafted Free Agent

Ron Talley, Delaware. 6′ 3″, 282 lbs, 4.98 40 yd dash. Ranked 74th out of 175 defensive ends by NFLDraftScout.com. Started at Notre Dame, saw action as a red-shirt freshman and sophomore, but left the team halfway through the season. Started 18 of 24 games over two seasons for Delaware and recorded 89 tackles and 6.5 sacks. Voted a team captain and was known as a fierce run defender. 3.5 GPA and currently taking graduate courses.

The Packers currently have seven defensive ends on the roster (not including Raji) - will keep 5 on the roster or possibly 4 if a NT/DE like Muhtadi is kept.
Sure things: Jenkins, Jolly (yes, that’s it!). Probables: Montgomery. Questionables: Harrell, Wynn, Malone

Certainly one of the most tenuous positions on the Packers as far as depth goes. Where will the depth come from? Until he proves otherwise, the Packers can not count on Harrell. The rest of the DEs on the roster are a rag-tag collection of undrafted free agents and a rookie 6th round pick. The only good news is that you can assume the Packers will play 4-man fronts part of the time, with Kampman as a situational DE.

Prediction: Ron Talley - Might have the best opportunity of any . He has to beat out the 6th round draft pick, Jarius Wynn and Alfred Malone, which is certainly possible.

LINEBACKER - Undrafted Free Agent

Cyril Obiozor, Texas A&M. 6' 4", 267 lbs, 4.74 40 yd dash. Ranked 31st out of 175 defensive ends by NFLDraftScout.com. Played defensive end in college, started the final 28 games of his collegiate career. Big play defensive end, led the Aggies in both sacks and tackles for loss. One of the players the Packers brought in for a pre-draft workout. He received the largest signing bonus of any of the Packers UFAs.

The Packers currently have twelve linebackers on the roster. They should carry nine or ten.
Sure Things: Barnett, Hawk, Kampman, Matthews, Poppinga. Probables: Bishop, Chillar, Thompson. That leave one or two spots open for Brad Jones, Obiozor, and Danny Lansanah.

Prediction - Cyril Obiozor - While he doesn't have the easiest path, he has a strong fighting chance if he can handle the conversion from DE and excel on special teams. Good size, decent speed and a hard worker. Has the right body type for the OLB position. I think the Packers will keep 10 linebackers and he makes the team.

Look for part two of this series where we examine the offensive undrafted free agents on the Packers roster.

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You can find more of Jersey Al Bracco’s articles on several sports websites: NFL Touchdown, Packer Chatters , Packers Lounge, Bleacher Report and of course, Jersey Al’s Blog .

Tuesday, July 7, 2009

Packers GM Ted Thompson is Rolling the Dice Again...




Expectations can bring worries. And folks, I'm worried. I expect the Packers to do well this season. I expect the offense to be better balanced and more productive. I expect Dom Capers' revamped defense to be a big improvement over last year. And finally, I expect them to challenge for the NFC North Division Title.

So what am I worried about? Well, those of you who are superstitious turn away. If you believe in jinxes or "the evil eye", stop reading. Go ahead and knock on wood, because I'm going to say it;

What if Aaron Rodgers suffers a season-ending injury?

What if the Packers come together in preseason, then beat the Bears, Bengals and Rams (totally conceivable) to get off to a quick 3-0 start. But the unthinkable happens towards the end of the Packers romp over the Rams. Mike McCarthy is slow to get Rodgers out of the game and some 3rd string Ram DE trying to make an impression crashes into Rodgers knee. One torn ACL later, Rodgers' season is over.

Now, is there anyone out there that really believes either Matt Flynn or Brian Brohm can step in and continuing leading the team to a successful season? Any hands...? I didn't think so.

As reported by the Green Bay Press-Gazette, even Offensive coordinator Joe Philbin, when asked recently about the progress of his two young quarterbacks, had to think about it for awhile. When he finally did answer, he could muster no better than an unenthusiastic “Well, certainly they’re better than they’ve been". How's that for a ringing endorsement from your own coach?

The man responsible for this bad situation is of course, Packers GM Ted Thompson. Thompson has proven to be a polarizing figure among Packers fans, mostly because of his role in the Brett Favre saga. I find myself straddling the fence. There are things he's done I like, there are things I don't like. This one, I am not on board with. It's a bad idea and a huge gamble, like going to Vegas with one year's salary and putting it all on a roll of the dice at the craps table.

Thompson's out there on an island with this one. I have to wonder, has any other NFL team ever done this? Starting the 2008 season with a first-year starter and two rookies as backup quarterbacks was as dangerous a move I remember coming from an NFL team. Add in the fact that neither of the rookies even remotely looked like NFL quarterbacks during that preseason, and you had to seriously doubt Thompson's sanity.

The only thing that made it palpable to me was that I had few expectations last year. I had serious doubts about the season before it even started, so I wasn't worried about what we would do if disaster struck. This season is different. As previously stated, I have expectations. I am not willing to accept throwing our season away if something happens to Rodgers. And make no mistake, if that particular disaster struck, the Packers season would be OVER. No chance at the Division Title and no playoffs - again.

So why would Ted Thompson choose to roll the dice again? Why did he do it in the first place? The only reason one can assume is financial. Thompson didn't want to in 2008 and still doesn't want to in 2009, spend the money to bring in an experienced backup quarterback. He doesn't believe in spending money on short term solutions. I do respect a lot of the financial decisions he has made. It's not a simple job being in the smallest NFL market, and running the only non-profit, community-owned, major professional sports team in the United States.

Thompson has to look for every opportunity to save money, and this was obviously an area he chose to do so. But what exactly does bringing in an experienced backup quarterback cost you? Looking at various signings around the league this off-season, the going rate seems to be $1,000,000 or less for a 1-year contract. For example, the World Champion Steelers signed Charlie Batch for $895,000, the Giants brought back David Carr for $1,000,000 and the Texans brought in Rex Grossman for $625,000.

While none of these guys will be starting quarterbacks on their own, at least they have enough experience that you could build a workable game plan around them. And is $1,000,000 that much to spend for a one year insurance policy at QB? Not when you're paying Brian Brohm $2,000,000 to be a 3rd string quarterback. Whatever Ted Thompson is thinking, he certainly can't believe the Packers are in good shape if Rodgers goes down, can he?

So here we are in July of 2009. With training camp only a few weeks away, it's still not too late. Of course, this is a move that should have been made already. The most attractive free agent backup quarterbacks have already been snatched up by other teams.

However, there are still two guys out there that could be brought in relatively cheaply as some veteran insurance; two guys that each have 15 years experience and have played 260 NFL games between them; Gus Frerotte and Trent Green. I would take either one over Brian Brohm and/or Matt Flynn. Keep whichever of the kids you like best, but I need some veteran insurance on the Packers. After all, I have expectations...




For more info on Green and Frerotte with regards to the Packers, read this.

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You can find more of Jersey Al Bracco’s articles on several sports websites: NFL Touchdown, Packers Lounge, Packer Chatters , Jersey Al’s Blog and Bleacher Report.

Monday, July 6, 2009

The Green Bay Packers' Best Running Back Is Not Who You Think...




In any discussion I have seen of the current Green Bay Packers running backs, the theme is the same: Can Ryan Grant return to the form of his rookie year and if not, will they finally give Brandon Jackson a chance to start?

In a recent interview, Packers beat writer Greg Bedard of the Milwaukee Journal was asked why Brandon Jackson did not get more of an opportunity to play last year. Bedard stated without hesitation that there were people in the Packer organization that wanted Ryan Grant to be the starter last year, even as he was struggling on the field and battling a hamstring injury.

All indications are that it was not the coaches, but the Packers front office pushing Grant as the starter to justify the new contract he was given.

So as Packer fans continue arguing Grant vs. Jackson, I am here to throw a monkey wrench into the debate. Neither one of them is the best running back on the Packers. Lurking in the wings and waiting for his chance could very well be the best running back on the Green Bay Packers roster—Kregg Lumpkin.

As a running back from the University of Georgia, Kregg Lumpkin is in good company. Herschel Walker, Terrell Davis, Rodney Hampton, Garrison Hearst and other top NFL running backs have all came out of "Tailback U".

Lumpkin was expected to have as good a college career as any of them. But that did not happen. Lumpkin made the Packers roster as an undrafted rookie, and then ended up spending most of the season on injured reserve.

So what has he done for me to say he is the Packers' best running back? Why would I go out on such a precarious limb? What evidence is there to support this hypothesis?

Well, a lot of it may be circumstantial, but let me present my case.

Kregg Antonio Lumpkin was born in Albany, Georgia, about 60 miles North of Talahassee, Florida. His family later relocated to Stone Mountain Georgia, a suburb of Atlanta. Lumpkin played High School football there at Stephenson HS.

He started all four year at running back, and rushed for 2,088 yards during his junior season and 1,456 yards with 15 touchdowns as a senior.

Lumpkin was a Parade All-American and named the number one overall HS recruit from the State of Georgia. He was also ranked as the second best running back prospect in the entire nation, second only to some kid named Reggie Bush.

With those credentials and a 4.4 40-yard dash time, Lumpkin was recruited by top football programs like the University of Miami and the University of Florida. But those programs had little chance of landing him. Lumpkin chose to stay close to home and committed to the University of Georgia, less than an hour away.

In 2003, as a true freshman at Georgia, Lumpkin played in 12 games and finished as the team’s second leading rusher with 523 yards on 112 carries. But he missed the first two games with a hamstring injury, and fought it the rest of the year, starting a pattern of physical problems.

That pattern continued the next year. After being name "Most Improved Running back" at Spring practice, Lumpkin came to training camp ready to win the starting tailback position. That quest lasted about an hour, as he suffered a season-ending ACL injury in the first practice and was put on medical red-shirt for 2004.

Lumpkin battled back from that serious injury to play in the 2005, season, albeit in a part-time role. He appeared in 13 games, but was used carefully and sparingly, gaining 335 yards on the season, while averaging 5.1 yards per carry.

In 2006, his 3rd year of college football, Lumpkin started nine games at tailback, rushing for 800 yards and 6 TDs, while averaging 4.9 yards per carry. This was also the year he started to show his soft hands and pass-catching skills, pulling in 17 passes on the year.

Lumpkin was primed and ready for his senior season. Listed as the No. 1 Tailback, Lumpkin played in only five games due to a broken right thumb, the arrival of Knowshon Moreno and then another serious injury to his left knee, once again requiring season-ending injury.

Lumpkin evidentally made the most of all his time on the injury list. He concentrated on his studies and graduated with dual B.S. degrees in consumer economics and housing.

With his inability to stay on the field as well as a poor 40 time at the NFL Combine (4.64), Luimpkin's name was not called in the 2008 NFL Draft. But the Packers' southeast scout, Brian Gutekunst, college scouting director John Dorsey and general manager Ted Thompson all liked what they had seen of him. After the draft, quickly signed Lumpkin to the team as an undrafted free agent.

During preseason, Lumpkin got an opportunity to show what he could do and made the most of it. He finished the preseason as the Packers leading rusher (38 carries, 153 yards, 4.0-yard average, one touchdown) and also added seven receptions for 59 yards and another TD.

The Packers were so impressed with Lumpkin that they cut three veteran running backs (Noah Herron, DeShawn Wynn and Vernand Morency) and kept Lumpkin as the No. 3 Running Back. The Packers coaches were sure they had themselves a real find.

Head coach Mike McCarthy said, "He runs physical. He continues to improve. He breaks tackles. He's a better player when he gets past the line of scrimmage than I originally thought. As he gets more comfortable, you see the physicality of his play has increased. I thought he did some good things."

McCarthy later added, "Lumpkin is a perfect example of what you're looking for in a rookie. I think talent-wise, he brings a lot to the table, and he's improved every week. That's what you're looking for in rookies, to take advantage of their opportunity. He's put together a nice training camp."

Offensive coordinator Joe Philbin said the 5-foot-11, 228-pound Lumpkin is "a pretty good fit for this system, with his style of running. He's not a real dancer, he's got a little bit of straight-line (speed), which I think fits us well. He's got nice size, he's a good-looking guy in pads. He looks like a running back. He's got some good attributes, no question... He's certainly produced when he's been in there."

Lumpkin was ecstatic to make the Packers roster, but expected it. "I don't think I've surprised myself," said Lumpkin, "I feel confident in what I'm doing."

With Ryan Grant and Brandon Jackson nursing injuries going into game two vs. Detroit, Lumpkin got a lot of work in practice that week with the No. 1 offense. While both Grant and Jackson were expected to play, the Packers were not worried if Lumpkin had to be pressed into service.

"I think he could handle it all," coach Mike McCarthy told reporters in Green Bay. "He's done a very good job with his opportunities."

Grant and Jackson did play, but the Packers still got Lumpkin some playing time and he did well. He carried the ball once for nineteen yards and caught 3 passes for 22 yards. After the game Coach McCarthy said that Kregg Lumpkin "absolutely" earned more playing time going forward with his Week 2 effort.

But alas, the injury bug would hit once again. Lumpkin suffered a hamstring injury in practice and spent the next three weeks trying to come back, but to no avail. The Packers finally decided they need a healthy No. 3 running back on the roster, so they put Lumpkin on the injured reserve list and called up DeShawn Wynn from the Practice Squad. Once again, Lumpkin's season came to an early end.

So now that you know the Kregg Lumpkin story, you can see it is one of disappointment and unrealized potential. Admittedly, there isn't a lot of cold hard evidence to go by. But I do remember watching him in pre-Season last year and being really impressed. I remember thinking at that time, without knowing a thing about him, "this kid is going to make the team".

What did I like about him? He is a North-South runner that runs hard, low to the ground and is tough to bring down. Unlike Ryan Grant, runs with his head up and has great vision.

Unlike Brandon Jackson, he picks his hole quickly and has the ability to drive the pile. He also has soft hands as a receiver and has proven he has the ability to pass protect. The only thing he lacks is breakaway speed, but the Packers do not exactly design their offense for the 60 yard run anyway.

As described earlier in this article, the Packers coaches like what they've seen of Lumpkin. They see him as the move-the-chains type running back their offense calls for.I have also studied video of him at Georgia. He always seems to make the most of every run, and has been a consistant 5 yard-per-carry guy.

The big question of course, is, can he stay healthy? While there is no historical evidence to make you think he will, there is reason for hope. That hope lies in the Packers' Strength and Conditioning Hall of Fame coach, Dave "Red-Man" Redding.

Red-Man is an old-schooler, prefers the free weights over machines, is a motivator and is most concerned with keeping players on the field. Here is how Redding describes his philosophy:

"I don't care what they can max out at," he said. "I don't care what they can do 10 times at a max load. I'm here to weight train them to make them better football players. This is not about how much we lift. It's about how healthy we can stay and how well we can play throughout the year."

Beautiful.

While the Packer Organization would prefer Ryan Grant to live up to the big contract they awarded him, a healthy Lumpkin has consistently caught the eye of the Packers coaches.

If he can stay healthy, perhaps as the year progresses he will earn a share of the carries, especially if Grant struggles once again. At the very least, he may steal some snaps from Brandon Jackson.

Kregg Lumpkin could be the best running back on the Green Bay Packers. I know, it is a big leap of faith, a roll of the dice and a lot of "IFs". But it is my feeling and I am sticking with it.

In his appropriately-named poem "IF", Rudyard Kipling writes:

"If you can trust yourself when all men doubt you, but make allowance for their doubting too."

If you think I'm crazy, Packer fans, it's okay, I'll understand.

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You can find more of Jersey Al Bracco's articles on several sports websites: NFL Touchdown, Packers Lounge, Packer Chatters , Jersey Al's Blog and, of course, Bleacher Report.