Kuhn ponders past, future at Pro Bowl

By Zach Buchanan, The Arizona Republic
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Green Bay Packers fullback John Kuhn (30) loses his helmet after being hit by Tampa Bay Buccaneers safety Dashon Goldson (38) and linebacker Danny Lansanah (51) while making a run in the fourth quarter during Sunday's game at Raymond James Stadium in Tampa, Fla.

SCOTTSDALE, Ariz. -- Green Bay Packers linebacker Clay Matthews has a theory as to why fullback John Kuhn is so popular in Wisconsin. It centers around the "Kuuuuuuuuhn" chant that has become a staple at Lambeau Field.

"It starts with his last name," Matthews said. "Guys with the last name of 'Kuhn' or the first name of 'Bruce' or anything with a long, accentuated 'U' in their name, there tends to be a cult following for them. Especially when they handle business on the field."

Kuhn has certainly done that. This year's Pro Bowl marks his second selection, and he was named a first-team All-Pro fullback for the first time in his 10-year career.

He's reached those heights after entering the league in 2005 as an undrafted rookie out of Division-II Shippensburg (Pa.) University. He spent most of his first two seasons on the Pittsburgh Steelers practice squad. He caught on with the Packers in 2007, won a Super Bowl in 2011 and made his first Pro Bowl a year later.

He comes to this year's Pro Bowl with a lot of conflicting thoughts. He wants to take in the experience that his play has earned, but is also still smarting from Green Bay's wacky overtime loss to the Seattle Seahawks last week. On top of that, he's set to become a free agent.

"It's a roller coaster of emotions," Kuhn said on Friday. "This is a great time, a tremendous experience that I feel like I wouldn't trade for anything, but then it's a bittersweet feeling because I would trade it for a win last Sunday.

Green Bay Packers fullback John Kuhn celebrates a victory against Detroit.

"It's a tough situation with some of the losses like the loss we just had in Seattle, but it's great to reflect on the season that I did have and then come down here with some other really great players in the NFL."

This won't be Kuhn's first go-around with free agency. He had the ability to test the market last season, but opted to return to Green Bay while also taking a pay cut of about $1.5 million, down from $2.6 million in 2013.

His role also shrank along with his paycheck. Fullbacks are already going out of style in today's pass-heavy league, and the Packers haven't been immune to the trend. After maxing out at 281 rushing yards and six total touchdowns in 2010, Kuhn has seen his offensive load decline every year. This year, 12 fullbacks took more offensive snaps than Kuhn.

Even with less action, Kuhn seemed to make a difference. When the going got tough toward the end of the year, the Packers leaned on him more, with Kuhn topping 22 offensive plays in each of the last four games of the year, including Green Bay's two playoff contests.

"He's a very quiet guy, he works hard," receiver Jordy Nelson said. "He's kind of like the O-linemen. It's a very dirty job, doing all the pounding and not getting much glory."

Entering free agency again, Kuhn knows not to go into the offseason with too many expectations. He loves playing in Green Bay, but he'll see what the NFL's 31 other teams have to offer him.

"I'd love to stay in Green Bay," he said. "But at the same time, this is a profession where for us you've got to test the market when you're a free agent. It's the nature of the NFL."

Clubhouse Live wraps the season with great prizes

It's the end of the 2014-15 season of Clubhouse Live with John Kuhn, which means we'll wrap up the year and give away prizes, both in person and online. Watch on Monday at 6:30 p.m. with co-hosts Brett Christopherson and Ricardo Arguello at The Clubhouse Sports Pub & Grill inside the Radisson Paper Valley Hotel in downtown Appleton.

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