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Chatman Leads Chase At Punt Returner


With just over a week remaining until NFL teams cut their rosters down to 53 players, Antonio Chatman is the frontrunner in the race to be the Green Bay Packers' punt returner on opening day.

And while the former Arena Football League standout has yet to win the job outright, he's already won the confidence of GM/Head Coach Mike Sherman.

Sherman indicated that he will give several players the opportunity to return punts in the Packers' two remaining preseason games. However, if no one else rises up to supplant Chatman, the Packers may already be improved from last season when Darrien Gordon, J.J. Moses and Eric Metcalf combined for an average of just over 4 yards per return.

"I do believe we're in better shape here now than we've been since we had Allen Rossum," Sherman said in reference to the 2001 season. "(Chatman) has done a good job, so you kind of take your breath and say, 'Okay, now let's make sure we get the right guy and let's experiment.'"

The drawback with Chatman is that he might be the sixth man in the Packers' receiver rotation behind Donald Driver, Robert Ferguson, Javon Walker, Karsten Bailey and rookie Carl Ford.

Ford isn't a lock to win the fifth spot, but he's played well this preseason and his 6-foot frame better fits the Packers' prototype at receiver than does that of the 5-foot-9 -- and that's probably being generous -- Chatman.

"(Chatman) has to be able to play a position," Sherman said. "He doesn't have the length or height that we like at receiver, but he has explosiveness and quickness and he has excellent hands ... If we were to dress four (receivers on game day) because of a certain 45(-man) roster dilemma, he has to give the confidence that he can play."

With Chatman's return abilities pretty well proven, Ford could be one of those to get an additional look Saturday, as might fellow seventh-round draft picks DeAndrew Rubin and Chris Johnson.

Sherman also indicated that Ferguson could see his first game-opportunity at punt returner since the 2002 preseason.

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