Blackmon Making Special Impact

Cornerback Will Blackmon has made his presence felt as the NFC’s leading punt returner, but his contributions have not been limited to that area as he has also performed well in kickoff coverage as well as at the nickel back position earlier this season. - More Mike McCarthy Press Conference Transcript - Nov. 27

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Cornerback Will Blackmon has made his presence felt as the NFC's leading punt returner, but his contributions have not been limited to that area as he has also performed well in kickoff coverage as well as at the nickel back position earlier this season.

Blackmon leads the NFC and is third in the NFL with a 13.4-yard average on punt returns, and is tied for the league lead with three other players with five returns of 20-plus yards. He is one of only four players in the league to have two or more touchdowns on punt returns.

"I feel like I have been doing a good job catching the ball and getting good field position," Blackmon said. "My goal is to score every game, but that is based on if I get a good kick and how well we block. I want to score as many times as I get the ball in my hands."

Both of Blackmon's punt return touchdowns came against Minnesota and were momentum swings in each game. In the season-opening win over the Vikings, his 76-yard score midway through the third quarter extended the Packers' lead to 17-6. His 65-yard return in Week 10 at Minnesota put Green Bay up 24-21 in the third quarter after the Packers trailed 21-10, but Green Bay fell short in the 28-27 loss.

Despite having success on punt returns, Blackmon and the Packers have struggled returning kicks, where the team ranks 25th in the league in average starting field position after kicks at 25.3. Blackmon has a 21.4-yard average on 39 returns, which ranks 35th in the NFL.

"The one thing is he is running really hard," special teams coordinator Mike Stock said. "He is running north and south with the ball for the most part, and that's what you've got to do on kickoff returns. He has been doing that exceptionally well the last two or three weeks."

Stock attributed the team's difficulties on kickoff returns to blocking, which was evidenced Monday night in New Orleans with Blackmon not having much room to operate on his way to just a 19.9-yard average on eight attempts.

"We are not blocking well enough," Stock said. "In that ballgame we were absolutely embarrassing, how we tried to engage in blocking. We did not play combatively enough on kickoff returns.

"Punt returns we were combative, and they are the same guys. It's a different type of block, but we did not compete like we need to compete. We need to change."

An area of special teams where the Packers have shown consistency is on kickoff coverage, where the team ranks 11th in the NFL with opponents' average starting field position after kicks at 25.8. Blackmon is tied for second on the team with 10 special teams tackles, eight of which have come covering kickoffs.

Since Al Harris returned from a spleen injury in Week 9 at Tennessee, Blackmon's snaps in the defensive backfield have been very limited, but he did make the most of his time during Harris' absence. He moved into the nickel role in Week 4 vs. Dallas when Harris left the game with the injury, and remained in that role for the next four games.

Against Indianapolis, Blackmon was matched up with perennial Pro Bowl wide receiver Marvin Harrison for much of the afternoon, and held him to just two receptions for 11 yards, his lowest yardage output all season.

"To be one of the top defensive backs you want to play against really good competition, and also it gets your confidence up," Blackmon said. "Not to take anything away from anybody else I have played, but when you play against people like Marvin Harrison and Terrell Owens, it gives you an idea of where you are and if you're making progress."

Having appeared in every game so far this season, Blackmon is nearing his combined games played (13) in his first two seasons with Green Bay, having missed five games with an injured foot and seven more due to a rib injury as a rookie. Last season, he missed seven more regular-season games and both playoff contests after re-injuring his foot.

Blackmon said as he looks back at the time missed early in his career, he focuses more on what he gained from the experience.

"I don't want to call it frustration because it wasn't anything I had control of," Blackmon said. "Everybody goes through adversity. I'm glad what happened happened because I learned a lot.

"I grew up a lot. I gained a lot mentally and I understood the game more. One thing I didn't do well in college was study, in terms of schemes and stuff, and I do that better now. I'm glad it happened."

While availability wasn't his strongest attribute during his first two seasons, Blackmon is now contributing in every phase of the game that he has been called upon for.

"Will Blackmon is a football player, first and foremost," Stock said. "He does what he has to do. He plays defensive back, plays corner, plays nickel, plays kickoff return as a returner, plays kickoff coverage as a safety or as a 'two' as a leverage player.

"He can play anywhere and he can do anything because he is a football player. He's got good instincts, he's got speed and he's tough. He's a great guy to have."

{sportsad300}Injury/participation update: Nine players on Green Bay's injury report saw their participation levels increase in Thursday's practice.

Safety Atari Bigby (ankle), cornerback Jarrett Bush (ankle), tackle Chad Clifton (knees), safety Nick Collins (knee), running back Brandon Jackson (ankle), defensive end Michael Montgomery (ankle) and center Scott Wells (shoulder) participated fully on Thursday after being limited on Wednesday.

Safety Charlie Peprah (calf) and tackle Mark Tauscher (hamstring) were limited participants after not participating at all on Wednesday. Tauscher took part in the jog-through portion of Thursday's practice.

"That was definitely encouraging," Head Coach Mike McCarthy said. "The plan for Mark, after yesterday's medical evaluation, was to rest him Wednesday and Thursday. He was able to do the walk-through today, which was good for him because every week you have some new wrinkles and so forth. So he is definitely making progress."

Tight end Tory Humphrey (ankle), wide receiver Greg Jennings (rib), defensive tackle Johnny Jolly (ankle), safety Aaron Rouse (ankle) and cornerback Charles Woodson (toe) were limited for the second straight day. Running back DeShawn Wynn (calf) did not participate.

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