Getting the handoff at the Cleveland 2-yard line, Kuhn fought off two attempted tackles by Browns defenders, kept his feet and lunged across the goal line for an early second-quarter touchdown that tied the game at 14.
Kuhn displayed quite the second and third efforts for an August exhibition affair, but he had his reasons.
“If Coach Mike gives you the ball down there, you’ve got to produce, because we’ve got so many weapons,” Kuhn said. “He’ll just go to the next guy really quick.”
Put another way, Kuhn by no means wants to lose the little niche he’s carved out for himself, especially in this training camp’s three-way fullback battle for potentially just two roster spots.
A solid blocker in both the run game and pass protection, and a productive special teams player during his time in Green Bay, Kuhn adds a short-yardage and goal-line threat to the Packers’ offense that fellow fullbacks Korey Hall and Quinn Johnson don’t.
Including last January’s NFC Wild Card playoff in Arizona, when his 1-yard dive tied the game at 38 early in the fourth quarter, Kuhn has scored seven touchdowns (three rushing, four receiving) over the past two seasons. Having touched the ball just 28 times in that span, he has scored 25 percent of the time he’s gotten his hands on it.
He also converted five of six third-and-1 rushes over the ’08-09 seasons. Kuhn doesn’t bat 1.000 on the goal line either, having been denied on second-and-goal from the 1 at both Minnesota and Cleveland last year, but he’s been productive enough that he’s still an option in those situations, as this year’s preseason opener proved.
“I feel like it’s just another something that I can try and contribute to the team,” Kuhn said. “We’ve been pretty successful on it, and hopefully it stays that way. We kind of catch the defense by surprise, and that’s the whole object of the play is to catch them not ready for the fullback when they’re keying on Ryan (Grant).”
Kuhn, who was claimed on waivers from the Pittsburgh Steelers back in 2007 and has played in all but two of the Packers’ games since, appreciates the opportunities he’s given to pick up a first down or touchdown because it takes him back to his college roots.
A workhorse runner at Shippensburg, Kuhn averaged 277 carries for 1,450 yards and 17 TDs in his three seasons as a feature back (2002-04), posting 26 career 100-yard games and numerous other school records. This week he's also been filling in as a halfback in practice due to injuries to others at the position.
“He’s got really good natural running instincts,” offensive coordinator Joe Philbin said. “He had a ton of production as a college player running the football. Different style of offense, but he’s one of those guys that’s got a knack.
“He has pretty good balance down there (on the goal line), stays on his feet, absorbs a first hit and (doesn’t) go down. He has the instinctiveness you’re looking for, especially in those types of situations.”
Kuhn noted that one of the main things he’s working on this summer is becoming a more physical blocker at the point of attack, but the 250-pounder’s blocking is nonetheless reliable. He gained some trust in that area back in 2007 when his key block on a Dallas linebacker sprung Grant for a 62-yard TD run in that big regular-season showdown with the Cowboys.
The overall athletic ability Philbin referred to serves Kuhn well on special teams, too. A member of Green Bay’s core units for each of his three seasons here, Kuhn has posted double-digit coverage tackles every year from 2007-09, one of only four players on the team who can make that claim (fellow fullback Hall, linebacker Desmond Bishop and cornerback Jarrett Bush are the others).
Of what sets him apart on special teams, Kuhn said, “I think maybe just my experience, and being able to know how to make adjustments in the game. When a certain team is doing one thing, I’ll know the adjustment to make and try to be successful against them.”
If he can be successful as a change-of-pace back near the goal line, too, all the better. The versatility certainly helps the team, as well as his chances of keeping his roster spot.
“That was the coaches’ idea, but I know when they started giving it to me, it was one of those where you had to make the most of your moment,” Kuhn said. “I feel for the most part I’ve done that.”