Perfectionist Ferguson Has Team's Confidence


During Monday Night Football, ABC's cameras focused on quarterback Brett Favre yelling at wide receiver Robert Ferguson.

While sideline episodes can make for juicy television, the mild-mannered quarterback simply explained to Ferguson what he should have done on that play.

"I wasn't really yelling at him," Favre said. "It was more encouragement."

A harsh personal critic, Ferguson does not need someone to chastise him. He accepted blame for an interception Favre threw during the Cleveland Browns game in Week Two.

"He's very, very accountable," head coach Mike Sherman said. "I've never heard him make excuses for anything."

Perhaps Ferguson should have fought off Gary Baxter, but the Browns cornerback made an excellent play, catching the ball at the highest point.

Ferguson also focused on that play instead of his four catches for 47 yards and one touchdown in that game.

"He's so hard on himself on what he didn't do," Sherman said.

Ferguson similarly acknowledged his fault when Panthers cornerback Ken Lucas jumped a route and stole the ball out of his hands during the second quarter of Monday's game. That play ended a Packers drive to the Panthers' 29-yard-line. Operating on a shortened field, the Panthers would take a 23-7 lead on a two-play, 32-yard drive.

"That changed the game," Ferguson said.

And that play led to the sideline chat where Favre tried to bolster Ferguson's mood. The 15-year-veteran knows he will have to rely on Ferguson, who has 12 catches for 143 yards and two touchdowns, during the final 12 weeks of the season.

"I've got confidence in Fergy," Favre said. "I don't know if there's a guy who works as hard as he does."

Ferguson trained harder than ever for the 2005 season. Lasik surgery improved his vision to 20-15. He upped his maximum bench press to 415 pounds and reduced his body fat to six percent.

It's that hard work combined with Ferguson's 6-1, 210 frame and athletic ability, which make him such a tantalizing prospect. Ferguson declared himself a No. 1 receiver during training camp, and his natural abilities led many say he could fill the void left by the season-ending knee injury to Javon Walker.

The coaching staff remains confident the five-year-veteran will fulfill his potential.

"As conscientious as he is and as prideful as he is," Sherman said. "I envision him becoming the receiver both he and I want him to become."

A year ago that vision seemed bleak. On Dec. 19, 2004, Fergsuon caught a 31-yard pass near midfield when Jacksonville Jaguars safety Donovin Darius clotheslined him with his forearm. The NFL fined Darius $75,000. Ferguson sustained head and neck injuries and was carted off the field and taken by ambulance to Bellin Hospital in Green Bay, Wis. The vicious tackle nearly paralyzed him, and he stayed in the hospital for three days.

Now he goes across the middle without fear.

"He's further ahead physically as far as playing through it than I thought he'd be," Sherman said. "He's coming off a very, very severe injury."

Having displayed a knack for overcoming adversity, Ferguson will bounce back from that play on Monday.

"Fergy will be better because of that," Sherman said.

Ferguson has put the interception behind him and turned his focus to returning to the form he showed before last year's injury.

"I'm over it," he said. "There's nothing wrong with my confidence."

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