Packers Could Start New Punter, Holder And Running Back

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When the Packers first called punter Ryan Flinn at 9 a.m. to schedule a work out, he missed the phone call.

After working until 2 a.m the night before, Flinn remained in deep slumber at the time.

To make ends meet while pursuing his dream of punting in the NFL, Flinn worked as a bartender at a neighborhood Orlando, Fla. joint called "Nice N Easy."

"It's kind of a double-edged sword," Flinn said. "It's good money, but it kind of takes a toll. Sometimes you can't get up and work out at the times you want to."

His Packers workout, however, was quite timely. He beat out three others for the vacant punting job. Because the Packers have placed B.J. Sander on injured reserve, Flinn likely will start on Sunday.

The 6-foot-5, 205-pound punter spent training camp of 2005 with the Atlanta Falcons and training camp of 2004 with the Dallas Cowboys. The Falcons released him after the first preseason game because they wanted a punter who could kickoff as well.

Flinn played collegiately at Central Florida where he focused on both distance and accuracy. He cites his goal as lofting a punt 45 yards with 4.5 to 4.8 seconds of hangtime.

Flinn assumed the punting duties during Thursday's practice, but Ryan Longwell took all of the punts on Wednesday. Longwell has never punted professionally but earned All-Pacific 10 Conference honors as a punter during his senior season at UC-Berkeley.

Over the course of the season, punting and kicking duties would wear down a specialist's leg, but with two games left in the season, that would not become an issue for Longwell. Placing all their eggs in one basket would be of greater concern for the Packers. In that situation an injury to Longwell would rob the Packers of their extra point kicker, field goal kicker, kickoff specialist and punter.

"It was always kind of a Plan B. It was never the A option," Longwell said. "Should I get taken out or something, that's the whole kicking game gone."

Flinn also may serve as Longwell's holder -- a role Sander previously filled. The Central Florida product held during college and performed admirably during his tryout and his first day of practice on Thursday.

"I'm a very good holder and very coachable," Flinn said. "If you tell me I need to do one thing, I can make an adjustment right then and there."

Aaron Rodgers, who occupied those duties on Wednesday, remains the other option at holder.

"The holding job is up in the air," Longwell said. "We haven't decided yet. We'll probably take a few extra kicks today and tomorrow and maybe Saturday if we have to."

Flinn will be very busy on Sunday as well. Instead of spending Christmas with his family, he will punt for the Packers.

"It was the best Christmas gift I could get," Flinn said.

**

Number Six?

With a knee injury sidelining rookie sensation Samkon Gado for the season, the Packers likely will turn to rookie Noah Herron as their starting running back on Sunday.

"To get a chance to start as a rookie -- you can't ask any more than that," Herron said.

Following season-ending injuries to Gado, Ahman Green (quadriceps) and Najeh Davenport (ankle), Herron would become the sixth different running back to start a game for the Packers this season and the second rookie to do so. Those devastating injuries helped pave the way for Herron's increased workload.

"It's a rare situation," Herron said. "As unfortunate as it is, you have to be opportunistic."

Herron, signed off the Pittsburgh Steelers practice squad on Nov. 30, received his first NFL carry on Monday. He rushed eight times for 27 yards, including a dash behind right tackle for 17 yards. That performance against the Baltimore Ravens gave him confidence heading into Sunday's game.

"I'm pretty comfortable," he said. "I didn't make any mistakes."

The Steelers drafted the Northwestern University running back in the seventh round of the 2005 NFL draft. They waived him on Sept. 23 and re-signed him to their practice squad four days later.

Injuries have forced the Packers to constantly reshuffle their running back situation. Green, Davenport, Tony Fisher, ReShard Lee, and Gado each have started a game this season. While Fisher will receive carries as well, the Packers likely will thrust Herron into the starting role Sunday.

"It's a classic case of you're one play away," Herron said.

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