GREEN BAY, Wis. (AP) -By working his way through a neck muscle injury and returning to practice on Thursday, rookie DeShawn Wynn remained the Green Bay Packers' starting running back.
For the moment, anyway.
``He's in the No. 1 slot right now,'' Packers coach Mike McCarthy said. ``He has an opportunity to take it and do something with it. We'll see what he can do.''
With the Packers gaining a league-worst 65.7 yards rushing per game - a figure that would represent a decent first half for their opponent on Monday night, the Denver Broncos - Wynn knows nothing is assured.
``It's definitely something I can't get complacent with, because you really don't know who's going to start at the beginning of the week,'' Wynn said.
The Packers have taken a by-committee approach to their starting running back spot after losing veteran Ahman Green to free agency and projected starter Vernand Morency to a knee injury in the first practice of training camp.
Second-round rookie Brandon Jackson got the bulk of the carries - a relative term in the Packers' pass-first offense - in the first three games of the season. But Wynn showed some ability in those games, earning him a shot at the starting job when Jackson injured his shin against San Diego Sept. 23.
Wynn has scored a pair of touchdowns in the past three games but hasn't provided a consistent spark. Take away his 44-yard run in the Packers' Oct. 7 loss to Chicago, and he's gaining only 2.6 yards per carry over the past three games.
Of course, the running backs can't take all the blame for the struggling running game, or even the majority of it. Now in its second season of running a zone blocking scheme, the Packers' offensive line still isn't executing it anywhere near as well as the team they'll be facing on Monday night.
Packers coaches used the bye week to reassess the running game, and didn't drop Wynn down the depth chart.
``That gave them time to kind of sit down and kind of juggle different guys they could put in, (to figure out) why the running game's not working and giving other guys opportunities,'' Wynn said. ``So we've been doing that this week, just to see who's got the best fit for the running game right now.''
Morency has played mostly in third-down situations since returning at the end of last month, but might be getting healthy enough to take a bigger role in the offense. Jackson is close to returning from his injury, and the Packers still might want to take another look at Ryan Grant.
But for now, the job is Wynn's to lose.
That's an unlikely rise for a player who fell to the seventh round after being tagged with an attitude problem at Florida. Wynn then barely played in the preseason because of injuries, and only made the Packers' roster because the team had a severe lack of depth at running back.
Wynn had seemed to put his injuries behind him once the regular season started, only to have his chronic dehydration issues resurface against Chicago. Then came Monday, when Wynn tweaked his neck in the weight room and the injury was aggravated by a hard shot in practice from a defensive player.
``I woke up the next morning and it was pretty stiff, the stiffest I've ever had,'' Wynn said. ``They thought it was a good idea to get it working back into motion and I missed Tuesday. And it was full contact today with no problems.''
McCarthy didn't seem to consider this week's injury to be the latest in a growing list of questions against Wynn's reliability. Actually, McCarthy seemed more upset at the unnamed defender who hit Wynn in practice.
``He took a shot at practice that was frankly unnecessary,'' McCarthy said. ``It bothered him in the weight room. It happens. This is not a reflection of anything that's happened in the past.''
Wynn agreed that the shot was unnecessary, but he didn't want to rat out the teammate who delivered it.
``That's football,'' Wynn said. ``You can't get upset about stuff like that. Just get even when you get the chance.''
Although Wynn did call the hit ``a little bit over the top,'' Wynn said he appreciated the fact that the Packers' defensive players weren't taking it easy in practice coming off a bye week.
``It's all competitive,'' Wynn said. ``That's what you want to see, a good look. I don't want anybody taking it easy out there because it's not going to be easy in the game.''
And Wynn said those hard hits in practice will help him prepare for the Broncos.
``It's kind of a good way to do it, just to get back into the feeling of hitting and getting back into it emotionally and all that stuff, getting ready for a big Monday night game,'' Wynn said.

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