In July, John Kuhn's job as Green Bay's fullback was considered to be in jeopardy.

In December, the Dover High School graduate saved the Packers season.

It's funny how things can change in a matter of months.

This past summer, many believed that Kuhn and his $1.8 million base salary, were expendable. After all, the fullback position has become something of a dinosaur in many NFL offenses.

Spending nearly $2 million on a position that is being phased out across much of the league seemed like a luxury that the Packers could no longer afford - especially in a salary-cap league where every dollar counts.

But the Packers stuck with Kuhn, and he repaid them in a huge way on a bitterly cold Sunday night in Chicago.

Green Bay Packers fullback John Kuhn will be a free agent after this season. Kuhn is a Dover High School graduate.
Green Bay Packers fullback John Kuhn will be a free agent after this season. Kuhn is a Dover High School graduate. (MIKE ROEMER -- The Associated Press)

Green Bay was taking on the Bears in a game that would determine the NFC North championship. The winner would make the playoffs, the loser would go home.

With less than 6½ minutes left in the game, Green Bay got the ball on its own 13-yard line while trailing, 28-27. The Packers' season was on the line. They almost immediately faced a crisis situation - a fourth-and-1 from their own 22-yard line. They decided to go for it, and they called on the bruising, 6-foot, 250-pound Kuhn, who delivered the precious yard and allowed the Green Bay drive -- and season -- to continue.


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A little later in the drive, Green Bay faced another do-or-die scenario - a fourth-and-8 from the Chicago 48-yard line with less than a minute left. Packers quarterback Aaron Rodgers dropped back to pass, but quickly found Chicago defensive end Julius Peppers charging straight at him. The eight-time Pro Bowler seemed destined to sack Rodgers and end Green Bay's season.

Then, seemingly out of nowhere, Kuhn emerged to get a chip block on Peppers and knocked him to the ground. That gave Rodgers the time he desperately needed to find a wide-open Randall Cobb for the game-winning touchdown in Green Bay's 33-28 triumph.

Kuhn normally toils in relative anonymity, especially outside of Wisconsin, or here in York County. He usually doesn't post the dazzling statistics or make the game-changing plays that garner the newspaper headlines and ESPN highlights. Instead, he does the dirty work - blocking, catching outlet passes, converting on a short-yardage running situations and contributing on special teams.

But his critical block on Sunday caught the attention of many NFL pundits across the nation.

"What a job John Kuhn does to come over and get enough, just enough, of Julius Peppers off the edge," Troy Aikman said on the Fox broadcast.

"John Kuhn is going to do a great job coming over and picking this up," Tony Dungy said while describing the play on NBC.

The talking heads on ESPN and the other sports networks were equally effusive in praise of Kuhn.

Great timing: The timing of Kuhn's clutch play couldn't have come at a better time, both for the Packers and himself. Obviously it helped put Green Bay into the playoffs.

The play may also help Kuhn earn a new contract with the Packers -- or some other NFL team. His three-year, $7.6 million deal expires at the end of this season and he'll be a free agent.

Kuhn's blue-collar style of play has long made him a cult favorite among Green Bay's fans, who chant "Kuhnnnnnnn" every time he gets one of his rare touches. Kuhn's pivotal block on Peppers will only make him more beloved among the Cheeseheads.

In addition, Kuhn boasts a strong resume. He's helped the Packers win a Super Bowl and been elected to the Pro Bowl.

He's also known as one of the team's smartest players. It's unlikely that any of the Packers -- including Rodgers -- knows Green Bay's playbook better.

Not surprisingly, Rodgers is one of Kuhn's biggest supporters, and that will certainly not change after Kuhn rescued Rodgers from getting planted onto the icy Soldier Field turf by Peppers on Sunday. It never hurts to have the star QB in your corner.

Combine all those factors, and the Packers may find it difficult to let go of one of the team's most-popular players.

However, Kuhn will have some factors working against him in his effort to earn a new contract. He's 31, which is almost ancient by NFL standards, and he does play a position that no longer is in high demand around the league.

Sunday night, however, he proved his value. The Packers would be sitting at home right now if it wasn't for Kuhn.

That's a pretty good bargaining chip to have on your side when it comes time to negotiate.

-- Steve Heiser is sports editor of The York Dispatch. He can be reached at sheiser@yorkdispatch.com.