GREEN BAY – Darrius Shepherd is right back in the same place he was a year ago.
The young receiver is making a strong bid for a roster spot as an underdog candidate at a crowded position.
It may not sound like progress, but Shepherd is beyond thankful just for the chance.
The Cinderella story of last year's camp as an undrafted rookie out of North Dakota State who made the 53-man roster, Shepherd unfortunately saw the clock strike midnight last October in prime time vs. Detroit.
A muffed punt and a slip on a goal-line pass that led to a deflection and interception were two large miscues that nearly cost the Packers the game. Three weeks later, he was released.
Often for a young player in that situation, his team moves on. The Packers didn't, however, bringing Shepherd back two days later on the practice squad, where he stayed the rest of 2019.
"It's the NFL and it's a small margin for error," he said. "You can't really make those mistakes.
"I was super grateful to the Packers organization, for the player personnel (staff) and the coaches believing in me, giving me another opportunity to come back. I'm just trying to prove everybody that believes in me right."
He could be on his way with another practice or two like Sunday's. In the most game-like practice of camp inside Lambeau Field, Shepherd made a handful of catches in the extensive 11-on-11 work, including two toward the end of the afternoon that really stood out.
On third-and-5 from the 21-yard line, quarterback Tim Boyle found Shepherd on a post route for a smooth pitch-and-catch TD. Not long after, Shepherd ran an even deeper post on third-and-11 and rookie QB Jordan Love hit him in traffic to put the offense in goal-to-go.
It's reminiscent of how he performed in training camp last year, only now Shepherd feels he's an improved player – mentally due to greater knowledge of the offense on top of what he battled through in 2019, and physically with getting better at beating man-to-man coverage, for which he's taken advice from Davante Adams.
"After that Detroit game, I faced a lot of adversity personally and had to just overcome it," he said. "Taking the offseason just to grow and come back and be confident in my play and myself, I'm excited to show what I do in practice on the game field hopefully."
He spent parts of the offseason back home in Blue Spring, Mo., and in California working out with his former NDSU quarterback, Easton Stick, who's a backup for the Chargers.
In his second run at a place on the team, where he stands at this point is by no means certain. Allen Lazard and Marquez Valdes-Scantling have been the Packers' most productive receivers during camp in the battle for playing time behind Adams.
Shepherd is right in the mix with Jake Kumerow, Equanimeous St. Brown (who has missed the last few days with an undisclosed injury), Malik Turner, Malik Taylor and former CFL standout Reggie Begelton for what will be precious spots on the 53-man roster and expanded practice squad when final decisions are made a week from now.
"I think he's again showed up, consistently separating and has caught the ball pretty well for the most part," Head Coach Matt LaFleur said. "One thing you know about 'Shep' is he's been able to take what he knows from the classroom and put it out on the field."
If that can earn him a shot at redemption at some point in a game in 2020, he'll gladly take it.
"Having the bad game, that definitely was frustrating," he said. "I just want to show I'm the player that everybody sees and hears about. I'm not the guy that made the mistakes. I'll learn from them, and show them I'm a player that can make plays and play in this league."