LeGarrette Blount and Kregg Lumpkin joined the Tampa Bay Buccaneers just a day apart in 2010 – Lumpkin on September 5 and Blount on September 6.
Lumpkin was plucked out of Green Bay, where the Packers had intended to stow him on the practice squad, and the Bucs envisioned him as having the chance to make a quick impact.
However, it was actually Blount who burst onto the scene in 2010, rising through the ranks to become the Bucs' eventual starter and lead the team in rushing. Lumpkin, on the other hand, saw action in 11 games, but tallied only one carry and one reception on the season.
Now, with Blount sidelined for at least one week with a knee injury, Lumpkin may have the opportunity to step up and fill in for the teammate whose career in Tampa started on almost the exact same day, but has taken a different trajectory to date.
"I just want to go out there and try to produce as much as I can," Lumpkin said.
The void in production created by Blount's absence may be hard to fill, but Lumpkin isn't coming into the situation entirely unprepared. Lumpkin has seen regular action in some of the Bucs' third-down packages and has been in the offensive system just as long as Blount has, which gives him confidence going into Sunday's game against the Saints.
"It helps a lot [playing on third downs], just being out there, understanding defenses and what type of blitzes they bring, and just taking advantage of the opportunity," Lumpkin said. "Being able to be in the system and learning it, learning what the coaches want, how they want it run, how they want things to operate, and just having that confidence and going out there and just being able to play mistake-free."
Of course, Lumpkin won't be the only player the Bucs will rely upon to carry the load while Blount recovers. Veteran Earnest Graham, Mr. Versatility for the Bucs ever since he came to Tampa, will also be called upon to help, and Lumpkin says Graham's presence has been instrumental in his development.
"He's been a role model, a teacher, just being out there watching him, learning from him in the classroom, watching him in practice," Lumpkin said. "Just a big help."
With the rival Saints next up on the schedule, the stage couldn't be bigger for Lumpkin to take the field and try to fill in for Blount. Adding to the importance of Sunday's contest is the fact that the Bucs are looking to bounce back from a disappointing result last weekend in San Francisco.
But even though the team's usual starting running back will be relegated to cheering on his teammates from the sideline, Lumpkin says he's confident that he can step in for Blount and make his mark – even if it's taken him a little longer to get an opportunity to do so.
"We've got to just learn from our mistakes and move on," Lumpkin said. "Try to prevent the mistakes that we had before, just go out here to the next game and play mistake free.
"The Saints is a big rivalry game, so we've just got to take it one game at a time and go out here and try to rebound from the loss we had in San Francisco."