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Packers' Kuhn thankful to Steelers

| Friday, Feb. 4, 2011

DALLAS — John Kuhn said he isn't mad. The Green Bay Packers fullback did not say, however, whether he wants to get even.

Some things are better left unsaid.

Kuhn, who is from York, was a member of the Steelers' practice squad in 2005 and active for nine games in 2006. He was released after the season and picked up by the Packers a day later.

The Steelers are in Super Bowl XLV on Sunday, but so are the Packers, and Kuhn should play a lot. Things worked out, perhaps explaining why he spent much of the week disavowing any ill feelings toward his former team.

"I'm extremely thankful for what Pittsburgh was able to do for me," he said. "They brought me into the league, and they gave me an opportunity. I learned how to block as an NFL fullback there. So there's a lot of positive that I take from playing in Pittsburgh for two years and no animosity for anything."

Thanks to the Steelers, who signed Kuhn as an undrafted free agent after he was named the nation's top Division II player at Shippensburg in 2004, he also owns a Super Bowl ring. That came after the 2005 season, when Kuhn never suited up for a game.

The ring is "sacred," he said, and he keeps it locked up at home — but not because he fears for its security. He feels unworthy of wearing it.

"I told everyone I wanted to earn one on the field," he said.

For most of his career, Kuhn was a blocking fullback, a position rendered mostly obsolete after Mike Tomlin replaced Bill Cowher in Pittsburgh in 2007. The Steelers use tight ends to fill the role.

Kuhn, 6-foot and 255 pounds, used to be mainly a blocker for the Packers. He had no carries during his first year and 16 in the next two. But in the first game of 2010, Ryan Grant, their best ball carrier, went down with a season-ending knee injury.

That forced the Packers to turn to a committee approach. It included Brandon Jackson, Dmitri Nance, late-blooming rookie James Starks and Kuhn, who assumed a new role. He is still primarily a blocker, "but I'm not going to turn down the ball when they want to give it to me," he said.

Kuhn finished the regular season with 84 carries, second on the team, for 281 yards and four touchdowns. He added 15 catches for 97 yards and two touchdowns.

He scored three touchdowns in the Packers' season-saving 45-17 win over the New York Giants that followed two potentially crippling defeats. He also pulled off a rare double: Coach Mike McCarthy awarded Kuhn two game balls — one for his work on offense, the other for special teams play.

"He is just a very good all-round football player," McCarthy said, citing Kuhn's value as a single back, split back and I-formation tailback as well as a fullback. "He's a very consistent football player and one of the smartest players on the team."

Running backs coach Edgar Bennett called Kuhn a "blue-collar, hard-working guy with a tremendous work ethic and a great attitude."

Such attributes hold special appeal for Packers fans, who have made Kuhn a cult hero of sorts, bellowing out "Kuuuuuuuuhn" when he does something they like. He said he first noticed it last year "when it started getting pretty loud" — and when his teammates gave him grief over it.

"It was a running joke for a little bit," he said, but he enjoys the acknowledgment.

"Yeah, it's pretty cool and pretty special that the fans have taken to me so well," he said. "I think it has a lot to do with the road that I've traveled, and they appreciate a guy that is willing to put in the extra work."

It has been, he said, "a heck of a journey."

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