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Murphy Could Add Punch To Kickoff Returns


Waiting for a football precipitously hanging in the lights and then eluding the 11 men storming down the field set to pummel you requires a special mentality. And rookie wide receiver Terrence Murphy thrives in that role as kick returner.

"It's an adrenaline rush," Murphy said. "You've got guys charging. It's like "Braveheart." They're coming full speed, screaming ... And they're coming down to take you out."

Braving pursuing marauders for the first time in an NFL game, the rookie Murphy returned two kickoffs for 54 yards during the Green Bay Packers' 17-16 loss to the Tampa Bay Buccaneers.

"Murphy did a nice job on our kickoff returns," head coach Mike Sherman said. "That was a bright spot."

Murphy's skills could serve as an upgrade to a Packers' kickoff return unit ranked 14th in the league. Last year the Packers also ranked 14th in the league in kickoff returns, averaging 21.7 yards and zero touchdowns.

"We need a kickoff returner who can get us the ball outside of the 30-yard-line," Sherman said.

Murphy has that potential.

Although he has not returned enough kicks to qualify in the official NFL statistics, Murphy would rank second in the NFC with a 27-yard-average. During his junior year at Texas A&M University in 2003, he led the Big 12 with a 27.2 kickoff return average and earned All-Big 12 honors.

Because of his value as a wide receiver, Murphy only returned seven kicks during his senior year.

While his friend and fellow Texas A&M alum, Kansas City Chiefs return specialist Dante Hall, excels by constantly juking, stopping and starting at different speeds, Murphy specializes at seeing a crease and then barreling through it as fast as he can.

"I hit it running full speed," Murphy said.

Murphy may go full bore, but he allows other players to rest. With wide receiver Robert Ferguson occupying the No. 2 receiving role because of Javon Walker's season-ending knee injury, the team wants to reduce Ferguson's special teams work to keep him fresh.

During Week One Ferguson handled all those duties, and the workload drained him. He cramped up and needed intravenous fluids in the third quarter.

"I was exhausted from playing special teams and offense," Ferguson said.

Another option, cornerback Ahmad Carroll, returned kicks during Week Two. But in Week Three he had six tackles, a pass defended and an interception. That performance could earn him the start at left cornerback.

The Packers saved the wear and tear on Carroll's body last Sunday by handing the kickoff reins over to running back Najeh Davenport, who has averaged 17.2 yards on kickoff returns, and Murphy.

Despite Murphy's return ability, the Packers do not have any plans to let him field punts. The All-Big 12 wide receiver rarely did that at Texas A&M. A standout quarterback at Chapel Hill (Texas) High School, Murphy did not even return punts in high school.

"It's something I'm still working on getting used to," Murphy said.

He started to return punts until hip and knee injuries sidelined him for the majority of training camp and all of the preseason games. With Murphy having so little practice under his belt, Sherman is not ready to let the second-round draft pick assume that duty.

"Returning punts is the toughest thing in football to do," Sherman said. "He would have to prove to me he can do it."

While Murphy continues to prove himself as a fourth wide receiver, he could serve most valuable on kickoff returns, and Sunday's game marked an auspicious debut.

"I did pretty well," Murphy said. "I was just one man away from taking it to the house."


Roster Note: The Packers released running back Antoineo Harris from the practice squad.

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