Tight end Donald Lee's first reception as a Green Bay Packer occurred in memorable fashion. A 16-yard touchdown, it helped trigger a fourth quarter comeback for the Packers on the primetime stage of Monday Night Football.
"Every time you have millions of people watching," Lee said. "You always want to do well."
Lee performed well indeed, mastering the offense despite joining the team on Sept. 6 when the Packers released tight end Ben Steele.
"To come here and pick up the offense as fast as he did is really remarkable," tight end David Martin said. "You have to take your hat off to the job he's done so far."
With starting tight end Bubba Franks missing the last two games with a knee injury, Lee has admirably filled Martin's former role as the No. 2 tight end.
"Both David and Donald Lee," head coach Mike Sherman said, "Did a very good job."
Lee played the last two years for the Miami Dolphins, starting 15 games and amassing 20 catches for 220 yards and two touchdowns.
Before the Dolphins drafted him in the fifth round of the 2003 draft, Lee played in a run-oriented offense at Mississippi State. Although he caught 61 passes for 611 yards and three touchdowns, the coaching staff used him primarily as a blocker. He enjoys his more versatile role with the Packers.
"It's more balanced because I'm in on a lot of running plays and a lot of passing plays," Lee said. "That's why I really love my opportunity here."
Lee showcased his receiving abilities on Monday night. With a first-and-10 at the Carolina Panthers' 16-yard-line and the Packers trailing 32-13, Brett Favre told him the football would come his way.
Lee had a white choice route, meaning he would have to read the safety and decide whether to run a post, straight or corner route. He noticed the Panthers were in a Cover-2 scheme and would cover him initially with a linebacker. Knowing the middle of the field would be open, he ran the post pattern, and Favre threw the touchdown pass before safeties Marlon McCree and Mike Minter could rotate over.
"He made a great catch," Favre said.
After the play, part of a 16-point fourth quarter Packers rally, someone retrieved the ball for Lee. They placed it in his locker on Tuesday. Lee plans to have Favre autograph it before stashing it away in a cabinet in either Maben or Pheba, Miss.
More game balls may be on the way. Franks, listed as questionable on the injury report, practiced on Friday. Even if he returns on Sunday, the Packers have used three tight ends before. Without wide receivers Javon Walker (knee) and Terrence Murphy (neck), the Packers could split out Martin, a wide receiver at the University of Tennessee, as the fourth receiver.
Lee should continue to serve as a valuable part of the offense.
"With the talent he has," Martin said. "I don't see why he wouldn't."
Lee, however, understands his role backing up Franks, a three-time Pro Bowler, and Martin, a five-year-veteran.
"We have two outstanding tight ends," Lee said. "I just hope I can fit in with those guys."
He fit in quite well on Monday night.