Packers fans can resume the chant. John Kuhn is back and nobody is happier about that than Kuhn.
“I always wanted to come back and now I don’t have to think about it for another three years,” Kuhn said on Monday.
An unrestricted free agent following the best season of his pro career, the soon-to-be-29-year-old fullback was rewarded for his dogged persistence by being made one of the highest-paid fullbacks in the league this past weekend. In six, not-so-short seasons, Kuhn has gone from being an undrafted free agent with the Steelers, to being cut twice by the Steelers, to becoming somewhat of a folk hero in Green Bay, where Packers fans delight in chanting his last name.
“It’s been a heckuva run. You just stick with it and work hard and good things will come in the end,” Kuhn said.
Last season, Kuhn became more than just a blocker. He became a player for whom Coach Mike McCarthy designed an offensive package, as Kuhn rushed for 281 yards and caught 15 passes. He also became a touchdown maker, with four rushing and two receiving.
So, on a team that is the reigning Super Bowl champions and which went into unrestricted free agency with a list of 11 players it might lose, the same player that was largely unwanted early in his career became a player the Packers wanted to keep.
“It’s great to come back and know you were really wanted. The community is so welcoming to me, and the offense fits,” Kuhn said.
League rules forbid unrestricted free agents from practicing until Thursday, but the rest of the Packers were preparing themselves on Monday for the first full-pads practice of training camp.
Linebacker Brad Jones will be in his first full-pads anything since a shoulder injury in the first half of last season ended his year. Jones is recovered from shoulder surgery and he’s looking forward to competing for the starting right outside linebacker job.
“I’m ready to do football. It’s been so long,” Jones said.
Jones is one of the many Packers coming off last year’s injured reserve list. They give the Packers heightened competition.
“Guys coming off IR will counter balance the complacency thing. The IR guys have zero complacency because they’ve been out for so long,” Jones added.
Second-round draft pick Randall Cobb is looking forward to full-pads practice so he can advance his introduction to the NFL.
“That’s what I’m trying to do, learn as fast as I can to get on the field as fast as I can and help the team,” Cobb said.
Meanwhile, one of the Packers’ young stars, nose tackle B.J. Raji, is looking forward to picking up where he left off last season, when he became one of the impact players on the Packers defense.
“I was able to make some plays toward the second half of the season. I have bigger goals for myself, to be an All-Pro, I want to lead, I want to accumulate some sacks. Number one is stop the run,” Raji said.
Raji was selected with the ninth overall pick in 2009, but he said the Packers’ slot in the draft wasn’t indicative of the team’s talent, which meant he was going to a team he believed was a lot better than its record. He was right.
“It was like a whole new world. I didn’t know how to use my natural ability because I was focused so much on technique. When do I stop being a robot and start being the guy they wanted to draft?” Raji said.
That day arrived about a month into last season, Raji said, and now he believes he’s headed toward an even higher level.