Wide receiver Robert Ferguson wasn't happy sitting on the sidelines for the Packers' first two preseason games of 2004. Held back by a hamstring injury suffered just days before the preseason opener, the fourth-year pro had been itching to get his first game action for quite a while heading into Friday night's match-up with the Jacksonville Jaguars.
Ferguson quickly made up for lost time as he led all receivers Friday with three catches for 83 yards, and scored the game's only touchdown on a 52-yard bomb on a play-action pass from Brett Favre in the second quarter.
Not only was Ferguson's scoring grab the lone touchdown of this night, but it also marked the first time a member of the Packers' offense reached the end zone this preseason.
The receiver brought a spark to the game early as well, as he had already dug deep into the Jaguars secondary for a 26-yard gain in the first period.
As one of three big receiving targets Favre has at his disposal, Ferguson was missed in the two games he was out of the lineup.
Ferguson was missing the action as well, and on more than one occasion over the past week, Packers' GM/Head Coach Mike Sherman had to pull Ferguson out of drills on the practice field because he was out going at full speed before he'd been cleared by the staff for full participation.
When he finally did get to make his long-awaited 2004 debut though, Ferguson rounded out his quarterback's arsenal and the scoring play was indicative that the offense is getting on track as a whole.
Favre was pleased with the TD pass, and was quick to credit all of his teammates for making the play possible.
"He ran a great route," the quarterback said. "Just like usual, it was set up by the running game. Ahman (Green) made a great fake and the offensive line put a great mask on it. That brought the safeties up and Ferg was right there."
While he may not have seen how the play developed in the backfield, Ferguson knew exactly what to do when matched up in single coverage with cornerback Dewayne Washington, who got no help from his fellow defensive backs.
"I just got him leaning to the outside and broke it in on the post and was wide open," Ferguson explained.
The receiver's return to the lineup may have been put in doubt earlier in the week, as he missed Wednesday's practice traveling to Texas to attend to a personal matter. His coach knew he'd be ready to go, though, and felt very good both for Ferguson and his offense.
"You're happy to see that for Fergie," said Sherman. "He had a tough week, having to go to take care of things in Houston and fighting off the injury. He ran a great route, though. The safety came up on the play-fake, he ran a great route, and the quarterback put it where it he could catch it. It was nice to get it in the end zone."
Ferguson has made great strides in each of the last two seasons, improving from year to year in each offensive category. He set career-highs with 38 catches for 520 yards and four TDs in 2003, a performance that earned him a four-year contract extension in the offseason.
If his first night on the field in 2004 was any indication, everyone should expect even bigger things this season, and that investment will be proven a wise one for Sherman and the Packers' organization.