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Chatman: Short In Stature, Big On Skills


Go ahead. Tell him he's too short, that at 5-9, 183 pounds Antonio Chatman does not have the requisite size to play with the big boys in the NFL. He's heard that slight ever since he went undrafted out of the University Cincinnati and used it as motivation ever since.

"That's my drive," Chatman said. "I always keep a chip on my shoulder."

The third-year wide receiver will have a chance to prove his abilities as he sees the most extensive action of his career Sunday versus the Cincinnati Bengals. With Robert Ferguson (knee) injured, Chatman will serve as the No. 2 wide receiver on Sunday.

"It's his turn to show what he can do," wide receiver Craig Bragg said.

Chatman will show his diminutive stature has some advantages. Defenders have trouble finding him through a wall of blockers. They also have trouble putting their hands on Chatman, a small target with a low center of gravity, to bring him down.

"He knows how to use his strengths," Bragg said.

The Packers use Chatman on different routes than their other receivers. They send him on misdirection routes where he can fake the cornerback one way and go the other.

Against press coverage, he uses lateral quickness to move around his defender and avoid contact. If Bengals defenders do attempt to bump him and miss, watch out. Chatman could blaze down the field and score his fourth touchdown of the season.

"I haven't seen any one jam him up. I haven't seen anyone stop him from running routes," wide receiver Donald Driver said. "If you try and put your hands on him, you're in trouble because if you miss he's gone."

Chatman has used that quickness and elusiveness to rank third on the team in receiving with 186 yards and fourth in receptions with 15.

"He has cat-like quickness," Ferguson said.

In addition to his major role as the No. 2 receiver, Chatman will serve as the team's punt returner. He has returned 15 punts for 102 yards. With special teams and offensive duties, his average of about 60 plays-a-game will increase to an exhausting 80 on Sunday.

"You can't pace yourself. I know I'll be a little tired," Chatman said. "Once I get my second wind, I'll be fine."

Chatman relishes receiving so much game action after needing an arduous route to reach the NFL. Despite leading the Cincinnati Bearcats in receptions (46), receiving yards (609), punt returns (22), punt return yards (172), kickoff returns (24) and kickoff return yards (476), no NFL team drafted him. He signed with the San Francisco 49ers as an undrafted free agent in 2001, but they waived him at the end of training camp.

He said NFL scouts evaluated his size instead of his ability.

"That shouldn't be an excuse. If I can play, I can play," Chatman said. "I should've been drafted."

After his stint with the 49ers, he moved on to the Arena Football League and caught the eye of the Packers' personnel department during his two years with the Chicago Rush. In his final year playing for the Rush in 2003, he set a league record with 3, 678 all-purpose yards. He also caught 123 passes for 1,608 yards and 29 touchdowns and finished as runner-up for the AFL "Offensive Player of the Year."

The Packers signed him in 2003, and he spent his first two years mainly as a punt and kickoff returner. In 2004 he saw some action as a No. 3 wide receiver, catching 22 passes for 246 yards and a touchdown.

Now a full-fledged starter in the NFL, Chatman has completed a long journey and defied the odds in a league that often looks at size instead of his skill.

"It's a great chance to finally get a chance to start," Chatman said.

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