Kuhn welcomes Ripkowski's addition
John Kuhn knows what it's like to be the new guy and knows what it's like to be the veteran.
When he first signed with Pittsburgh as an undrafted free agent in 2005, the future Green Bay Packers fullback was taken under the wing of Dan Kreider, who was in the final stretch of a 10-year career.
Kuhn spent two seasons with the Steelers before the Packers claimed him off waivers, but those years were important for for his development. He learned from Kreider what it meant to be a pro and how to play the fullback position at the game's highest level.
Now a two-time Pro Bowler, Kuhn finds himself on the other side of the equation. He'll turn 33 in September and faces the biggest competition for his starting job in five years in sixth-round pick Aaron Ripkowski, who studied Kuhn during his time at Oklahoma.
Kuhn isn't backing down from the challenge, but he also isn't shunning the youngster.
"When I came into the league, it was kind of a pay it forward kind of thing," Kuhn said. "(Kreider) kind of showed me the ropes that he knew had to play and the fullback position as he saw it. I'm just trying to do the same. At some point in time, you have to help lead on some of the young guys and it's a special feeling to know that you can do that when somebody looks at you, respects you and takes to heart the things that you say. It means a lot and makes it easy to try to help them out."
Kuhn re-signed with the Packers at the veteran minimum in April. His one-year, $870,000 contract counts only $635,000 against this year's salary cap because of the veteran salary benefit. He can earn an additional $50,000 with workout and Pro Bowl bonuses.
Kuhn contemplated his future this offseason. He missed last week's OTAs because of his involvement in the NFL's broadcasting boot camp in New Jersey. It's an area he's gained an interest in over the years, jokingly adding that it's unlikely he'll use the chemistry degree he received from Shippensburg in 2004.
He watched many of his long-time teammates like A.J. Hawk, Tramon Williams and Jarrett Bush all depart, but never worried about his future with the Packers. When asked if he gave any thought to moving on, Kuhn said: "Not at all." He believes he has some football left in him.
"I think every time you get into an offseason, you try and be proactive and look at all the possibilities there can be around," Kuhn said. "I think if you only expect the best, you're fooling yourself. So you always have to anticipate every possibility. For myself, I just tried to prepare the same way I do every single offseason and trust and have faith it would all work itself out."
Kuhn's ability to adapt and improve his run-blocking last season is one reason he's still here. He only played about 20 percent of the offensive snaps in 2014, but still was voted first-team all-pro.
The Packers see value in fullback position, though there's only been room for one on the active roster in recent years. Whatever reps are available will be contested between Kuhn and Ripkowski come training camp.
Still, Kuhn is deterred. He plans on helping the youngster much like Kreider did for him.
"I think any guy who plays a while in this league and had great teachers and people to take him under their wing makes it very easy to make that transition and do the same when you start getting up there in your career," Kuhn said.
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