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Wells May Supplant Klemm At Guard


Pending an official announcement from the coaching staff, Scott Wells, formerly the backup center, appears positioned to replace starter Adrian Klemm at left guard in an effort to bolster the Packers' running game.

"I was shocked at first but I was excited at the same time," Wells said. "I'm looking forward to some playing time and hopefully contributing."

On Wednesday Head Coach Mike Sherman and offensive line coach Larry Beightol notified Wells that he would begin practicing with the first team at left guard.

Klemm, who said the coaching staff was looking for a spark, took the demotion in stride.

"Sure I'm disappointed. What are you going to do?" Klemm said. "We've only won one game. They just said they wanted to shake up things a little bit and make some changes, and I was the change that they made."

Wells played center in training camp until Aug. 15. The coaching staff then moved him to left guard, where he battled Klemm for the starting spot. Wells made that transition to guard -- the position he played in high school -- with ease.

"I felt very comfortable," Wells said. "It took me a while to get back into that form, but I picked it up fairly well."

After Klemm won the left guard job at the end of training camp, Wells returned to backup center. He started at center against the New Orleans Saints and Minnesota Vikings with Mike Flanagan inactive following hernia surgery. He also received extensive action in relief of Flanagan against the Carolina Panthers and Cincinnati Bengals.

The Packers coaching staff has praised Wells' performance in the running game, and his insertion into the starting lineup would likely serve as a means to improve a rush unit ranks 30th in the league and 32nd in yards per rush.

"We need to get some explosive runs on offense," Sherman said. "We haven't had enough of those."

The blame for the woes of the running game cannot fall on one person. Klemm, however, committed a costly penalty against the Pittsburgh Steelers. A false start penalty on a 3rd-and-2 at the Pittsburgh 2-yard-line forced the Packers into a long-yardage situation. Two plays later, cornerback Bryant McFadden sacked Brett Favre and forced a fumble, which safety Troy Polamalu returned for a 77-yard touchdown.

"We had the right play against the right defense," Sherman said. "And then we don't get to run that play."

Another consequence of a lineup change is that Grey Ruegamer would move from the backup guard to backup center. That position change could have significant results because a hernia injury continues to bother Flanagan. Ruegamer may have to replace Flanagan as Wells did against the Panthers and Bengals.

The offensive line's utility man, Ruegamer has moved from left guard to right guard and now to center. He expressed his readiness for the latest position change.

"I'm just thankful I know the offense and can switch," Ruegamer said. "When you bounce around, you learn all of [the positions]."

At the position of guard, the 6-2, 304-pound Wells lacks the prototypical size in an era when most NFL linemen top out at well over 300 pounds. Coaches often prefer linemen to have longer arms than Wells because it helps a blocker keep pass rushers at a distance. Wells, however, does not see his frame as a drawback.

"According to the critics I'm not the ideal size," Wells said. "It's overrated. What it all comes down to is performance and whether or not you can get job done. You can't measure everything with a ruler."

He learned to compensate for that size by using the leverage and balance he honed as the No.1 heavyweight high school wrestler in the nation at Brentwood (Tenn.) Academy.

"That helps out tremendously," he said. "I was always wrestling people bigger than me. I was never at the maximum weight. I was never the tallest guy. I was always one of the strongest guys. So I was able to rely on that and my technique."

For the rest of the offensive line, the insertion of Wells should not disrupt their cohesion. Against the Carolina Panthers, starting left tackle Chad Clifton hurt his ankle and Flanagan aggravated his hernia injury. Wells replaced Flanagan at center, Klemm replaced Clifton at left tackle and Ruegamer filled in at Klemm's vacated left guard position.

Behind that makeshift line, the Packers scored 16 fourth-quarter points, closed a 32-13 deficit to 32-29 and did not allow any sacks. That comeback gives the team faith no matter who receives the starting nod.

"We were depleted," right guard William Whitticker said. "It gave me a lot of confidence. Whoever is there stepped up and came to play."

Now the Packers likely will look to Wells to step up when they face the Atlanta Falcons on Sunday. He relishes the chance to start.

"I don't feel any pressure," Wells said "It's a great opportunity. I try and look at it that way."

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