Lumpkin Looking To Impress In Finale


RB Kregg Lumpkin

Thursday night's preseason finale against Tennessee will likely include only a series or two of action for the Packers' starters, which will provide for plenty of meaningful playing time for the remainder of the roster. Despite facing an uphill battle in a talented backfield, rookie running back Kregg Lumpkin will be one of those players hoping to make an impression on the coaches in the last opportunity before Saturday's final roster cutdown.

Lumpkin, who signed with the Packers in May as a non-drafted free agent out of Georgia, has led the team in rushing this preseason with 28 carries for 126 yards and a touchdown, and has added three receptions for 26 yards and a score.

"I think Lumpkin has had a steady climb," Head Coach Mike McCarthy said. "I just go from the first day with pads and how he did in the blitz drills and things like that. Then the Family Night scrimmage, he had some opportunities, he did some good things, but then didn't take advantage of some opportunities he had.

"Just week in and week out, he continued to improve. So I've been very impressed with what he's been able to do so far."

Lumpkin, who was the No. 2-ranked running back in the country by during his senior season at Stephenson High in Stone Mountain, Ga., battled injuries throughout his collegiate career with the Bulldogs, which contributed to him not hearing his name called on draft weekend in late April.

"I was uncertain about my draft status," Lumpkin said. "I had to just sit and wait for that phone call. I wasn't disappointed because my agent and I had talked about it and we knew the situation with my injuries."

Lumpkin said he was contacted by several teams following the draft, but the Packers were the only team to offer him a contract. Despite only playing in five games as a senior because of a meniscus injury to his knee and missing the entire '04 season because of an ACL injury to the same knee, Green Bay's personnel staff was impressed with what they had seen from Lumpkin when he was on the field.

"I think our scouts did a great job with their homework and research and everything," running backs coach Edgar Bennett said. "He had very good size and good feet for a big back. He was powerful and had good hands for a receiver, and obviously he has been showing the ability to run behind his pads, push the pile, and has good burst."

For the 228-pound Lumpkin, the adjustment to the NFL began in early May at the team's rookie orientation, and has continued into OTAs, mini-camp, and now training camp.

"It was overwhelming at first," Lumpkin said. "I just stayed focused and stayed in my playbook and tried to learn from the veteran running backs.

"I think I have exceeded a little bit of my own expectations. Coming from college I didn't think I was going to adjust this fast. Having a great running back coach and great running backs to help me out as well, it just picks me up and gives me a boost."

Lumpkin's pro debut in the preseason opener against the Bengals included seven carries for 36 yards, as well as an 11-yard touchdown reception from fellow rookie Matt Flynn that pulled the Packers within three points with a little over three minutes to play.

After the defense forced the Bengals to a three-and-out on the next series, Green Bay regained possession at their own 10-yard line with just under two minutes remaining. On the fourth play of the drive, Flynn connected with Lumpkin on a short dump-off pass for a 9-yard gain out to the 35, but Lumpkin's fumble gave Cincinnati the ball and the victory.

"That was horrible," Lumpkin said. "I felt like we still had a chance to win that game if that hadn't happened. I was real hard on myself after that. The coaches and some of my teammates were telling me that I had a good game and I needed to bounce back from it."

{sportsad300}That is what he has done since then, with 51 yards on 10 carries the next week at San Francisco, including a 21-yard run, and 39 yards on 11 carries last Friday in Denver. After Tracy White's interception gave the offense the ball at Denver's 10-yard line with about five minutes left, Lumpkin's 1-yard touchdown run on fourth down was the difference in the Packers' 27-24 victory.

"Every opportunity he has been given, he's made the most of it," Bennett said. "That's what it's all about, these kids getting an opportunity and you see him day in and day out get better as we go along. He just has to continue to improve and grow.

"We kind of look at every day he comes out to practice, that's another opportunity to get better. We practice with purpose every time we step out onto the field. Thursday is no different."

Lumpkin knows with second-year backs Ryan Grant and Brandon Jackson firmly entrenched at the top of the depth chart and veterans Vernand Morency and Noah Herron vying for the remaining spot or two, earning a place on this year's roster will not come easy. Lumpkin has also returned kicks in practice and seen time on some of the coverage units during the games. As with all of the final spots at each position, a player's ability to contribute on special teams will factor in.

"We're a type of football team that doesn't go out and just sign special teams players, situation specific," McCarthy said. "We sign good football players, both offense and defense, that also play special teams. It's important for all of our positions, because it's one thing to make the 53, but more importantly you want to be on the 45. Special teams is the determining factor when it comes down to going from 53 to 45 week in and week out."

With Tennessee possibly playing their starters into the third quarter on Thursday at Lambeau Field, Lumpkin knows a strong performance will go a long way toward achieving his goal of making an NFL roster.

"I'm just looking to have a chance to go out there against their No. 1 defense maybe," Lumpkin said. "I just want to do as much as I can on Thursday. I am just going out there trying to compete and showcase my talents.

"All I can do is just hope and pray that the situation is revealed and I will be somewhere."

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