Ferguson Learning On The Job

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During Thursday's morning practice, Brett Favre flashed a bit of the magnificence that has made him a three-time MVP.

With his receivers covered and the play breaking down, Favre rolled right out of the pocket before gunning a pass across his body, over defenders and into the arms of a receiver who was streaking down the center of the field some 50 yards away.

Like a wealth of Packers fans, second-year wide receiver Robert Ferguson had seen such passes from Favre before, but until Thursday, he'd never caught one.

"I didn't think he was going to throw that ball and when he threw it my eyes got as big as those (camera) lenses right there," Ferguson told the media afterward. "I kind of understand now that no matter if you're on the back side or front side (of a play), just keep running, because he'll find you."

It was the kind of thing he might have known last year had his rookie campaign not been plagued by injuries. After a breakout 58-reception junior season at Texas A&M, Ferguson was selected by the Packers in the second round of the 2001 NFL Draft only to encounter back pain during training camp, suffer a concussion and strain his quadriceps in the final preseason game and pull his left hamstring in December.

Already inexperienced, with only a single season at the Division I level under his belt, Ferguson quickly fell off the radar screen. He played in just one regular season game for the Packers, filling in as a punt returner after Allen Rossum went down with an injury of his own, and he left his first NFL season without an official reception.

Since, through the team's offseason opportunity sessions and mini-camps, Ferguson has played his way into the team's No. 2 receiver position, at least on paper. How he handles that role through the four preseason games of 2002, starting with Saturday's contest against the Philadelphia Eagles, will determine whether or not the spot is still his come September.

It's his job to protect, and as of Thursday, Ferguson couldn't wait to get to Philadelphia to begin.

"I'm very anxious," Ferguson said. "To some, it's a preseason game, for me, I'm approaching it like it's the Super Bowl. I'm nervous now.

"Last year I had a very, very, very rocky preseason where I didn't get a lot of playing time. I just want to go out and enjoy myself in the preseason, prepare myself for the regular season."

Ferguson won't get his touches at receiver only. Since training camp began he's been a constant in the Packers' punt return drills, the team's other top candidate being free agent acquisition Darrien Gordon.

"Every position that's open, Robert Ferguson is preparing as if he's (going) at that position," he said. "I want to do everything I can to get on the field because I have a bitter taste in my mouth from sitting on the sideline last year."

Nursing a sore groin, Ferguson, like the rest of the Packers' first-string, is unlikely to be overused this weekend. As a result, he said he'd look to make the most of his limited time on the field.

And if he's learned his lesson from Thursday, one thing's for sure, he's going to keep running.

Said Ferguson, "No matter what play we call, what side you're on -- back-side, play-side -- you always could be the No. 1 choice with Brett (as the quarterback)."

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Second-year cornerback Bhawoh Jue, who has been bothered by a groin injury, took to the practice field Thursday for the first time since April mini-camp, Thursday.

Jue said he felt comfortable in his return, but that his physical conditioning left something to be desired.

"When I'm out there on the sideline I'm checking my position, going through my head what I'd be doing if I was out there, and I'm in the meetings, so from the mental aspect I think I'm there," Jue said. "It's more of a physical thing, getting out here, getting my body acclimated to doing the things I was doing before and getting my wind back

"I was dying out there today. I don't know if anyone really could tell, but I've got to get my wind back."

As to how much or if he would play Saturday, Jue said he'd yet to discuss the matter with the coaching staff.

"Physically, I can, but I haven't played football since May and I haven't practiced in pads yet, so I don't know," he said.

**

No doubt tired of speculation regarding the No. 2 receiver position, GM/Head Coach Mike Sherman offered the following when asked who the starting receivers would be Saturday:

"Let's see, the starting wide receivers right now would be Terry Glenn, Robert Ferguson, Donald Driver, Charles Lee and the rookie, (Javon) Walker, those guys. Any of those guys could do it, so I'm not worried. They're all going to be good, they've all got to work."

Sherman went on to add Karsten Bailey's name to the list.

**

One day after he twisted his left knee, wide receiver Terry Glenn missed practice Thursday to receive a precautionary MRI.

Coach Sherman said Glenn's knee experienced swelling and began to feel stiff late Wednesday night. The results of the MRI were "normal." Glenn is listed as questionable for Saturday's game.

**

Thursday, Kerry Hood became the second Packers receiver in as many days to go down with an injury. Unlike Glenn, Hood was carted off the field.

Tests showed that he had a thigh contusion. He is listed as questionable for Saturday.

**

A handful of players have already been ruled non-participants for Saturday due to injury: Najeh Davenport (foot), Earl Dotson (knee), Mike Flanagan (thumb), Windrell Hayes (knee), Kevin Jordan (knee), Nate Wayne (knee) and Tyrone Williams (groin).

Jason Brookins (ankle), Aaron Fields (ankle), Scott Frost (shoulder), Seneca McMillan (groin) and Keith Thibodeaux (groin) sat out of practice Thursday with minor injuries. There was no word on their status for Saturday.

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