Blackmon Rewards Packers For Patience

Will Blackmon won the Packers punt return job in August. But four months passed before he could show why. The second-year player out of Boston College demonstrated his play-making abilities in only his second return of the game (and year) with a 57-yard touchdown. - More Audio | Video | Packers-Raiders Game Center


Will Blackmon won the Packers punt return job in August.

But four months passed before he could show why.

Nevertheless, Blackmon made the most of his opportunity against the Oakland Raiders. The second-year player out of Boston College demonstrated his play-making abilities in only his second return of the game (and year) with a 57-yard touchdown.

For Blackmon, Sunday served as a coming-out party of sorts as he has spent most of his career battling injuries. This year, it was a broken thumb suffered in training camp and then a broken foot on October 3, the same foot he broke during a May mini-camp of his rookie season. That, followed by a rib injury, prevented him from playing in more than four games in 2006.

After his unfortunate set of circumstances, it's difficult to blame Blackmon for feeling pretty good about Sunday's performance.

"It's awesome," Blackmon said. "Since I've been injured, it would have been easy to get down. But (GM) Ted (Thompson) said he was going to keep me on the active roster and not put me on injured reserve because he has faith.

"And my teammates kept me positive all the time. The training room, Flea (Bryan Engel), Pepper (Burruss), and Nate (Weir), they got my treatment going and Rock (Gullickson) in the weight room, and here's the end result."

Though Blackmon's punt return for a touchdown would have made for a good enough comeback story, he took it one step further when he hustled downfield to cover a Jon Ryan punt and recovered a Tim Dwight fumble in the end zone for another score with 4:50 remaining in the third quarter.

With the two touchdowns on special teams, it was the first time the Packers have accomplished that feat in a game since they did it in1986 against the Detroit Lions. The Packers now have four special teams touchdowns this season.

Blackmon, who took over the punt return duties in place of a banged-up Charles Woodson, said after the game that his main job is to make plays. And that's exactly what he did Sunday. Not that they didn't come with a little controversy along the way.

On the punt return for a touchdown, replays showed that Blackmon appeared to step out of bounds near the Raiders 5-yard line. However, the Raiders never challenged the play and the touchdown stood.

He said some of his teammates also thought his right foot was out of bounds, but according to Blackmon, the touchdown means end of story.

"Chalk it up, it counts," Blackmon said with a smile in the locker room.

The ironic part is that the play was also nearly over before it started when Blackmon thought about making a fair catch.

"I had a similar situation like that in college where I saw the ball was short," he said. "But I knew I could get a good return on it and I let it drop in college. This year, I said, 'Hell, I'm going to run. If I get hit, so be it.' I caught it, had a clear path, and took it."

While such a performance may be a surprise to those who aren't familiar with Blackmon's abilities, don't count his teammates among that group. After the game, several of them said that they've seen what Blackmon was capable of, it was just a matter of staying on the field and getting the opportunity to show it.

"Blackmon played great," Nick Barnett said. "Honestly, we've been expecting that from him. Unfortunately, he's had those foot injuries and he hasn't been able to be out there.

"But he made a great play on special teams. I think he's going to be a great player in this league."

{sportsad300}It's safe to say Head Coach Mike McCarthy is happy that the young backup cornerback came back strong as well, especially considering that Blackmon was almost placed on injured reserve earlier this season.

"We discussed it," McCarthy acknowledged. "Dr. Pat McKenzie felt that if we gave him proper time and he responded to the treatment, we clearly made the right decision.

"It's a credit to our medical staff and Will Blackmon going through the rehab process and Ted Thompson being patient. It was clearly the right decision."

Make no mistake about it, McCarthy, like Blackmon, and the rest of the team for that matter, wanted to see what No. 27 could give them once he was healthy.

He didn't disappoint.

"Will Blackmon is clearly one of the better athletes on our football team," McCarthy said. "Personally, it's really gratifying to see him out there after everything that he's gone through to overcome the injuries that he's been battling for a year and a half, to have the opportunity that he had today and take advantage of it.

"He's an explosive young man and a very good defensive back as he moves through his development process. And he's definitely a weapon on special teams as he proved today."

It appears that the team now has two good punt returners at its disposal, as Woodson said he would be ready to take over the duties once again next week. However, McCarthy wouldn't speculate if that was going to be the case.

Either way, Blackmon's returns certainly were worth the wait.

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