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Swain Ready If More Opportunities Come His Way


Brett Swain has made some impact plays as a coverage man on special teams so far this season, but with fellow wide receiver Jordy Nelson sidelined this week with a knee injury, he is looking to contribute on offense now as well.

Nelson sustained a sprained knee on Sunday on a first-quarter punt return, and with him out, Swain saw some time against the Lions when the Packers used four wideouts. It was the second game this season that he saw time at receiver, also getting some reps at St. Louis when James Jones and Greg Jennings both left the game briefly with injuries.

"It's pretty exciting to kind of know that you are going to get some offensive plays in, but you've got to concentrate during the week and know that you have to put the work in to be able to perform well on Sunday," Swain said. "You've also got to remember that you're still a special teams player and you've got to put the work in there to continue to be a player on special teams. But it's definitely exciting."

Since his previous opportunities at wide receiver came unexpectedly after other receivers went down with an injury, Swain said with Nelson already declared out for this week, knowing what his role will be should be beneficial from a preparation standpoint.

"I think it makes it a little bit easier because you know what position you are going to be playing, so you can concentrate more on one thing than the other," Swain said. "When you don't know what you're going to be doing on Sunday or where you are going to be needed, you kind of are just thrown in there and you've got to be able to adapt to every situation and be ready for anything."

Swain was drafted by the Packers in the seventh round of the 2008 draft out of San Diego State, but was released in the final roster cutdown in training camp in a deep wide-receiver group. In training camp this year, Swain admitted that he probably wasn't ready physically as a rookie for the jump from college to the pros, and adding weight and strength became a focus for him this offseason.

"I think he understood that he hadn't quite made the grade a year ago when we talked to him on cut-down day," wide receivers coach Jimmy Robinson said. "We said, hey, we may be able to bring you back on the practice squad, which we did. He worked hard all season and I think he gained a lot of experience just from going against Al and 'Wood' (Charles Woodson) every day in practice. He's done it the hard way.

"What he really did was he changed his body. He got much stronger. He's been a much tougher player physically. He's an excellent route runner. He's got good hands. He's smart. He knows all the positions, so he's versatile and we can put him wherever we need him."

Swain said the experience going against two Pro Bowl cornerbacks each day in practice added to his belief that he could play in the NFL, something a fellow seventh-round wide receiver on the roster can relate to.

"You get to a point where you just realize that you can really play this game, and I think he understands that he can play this game," said wide receiver Donald Driver, a seventh-round selection by the Packers in 1999. "It was just getting an opportunity.

"You wouldn't think a guy with that much talent would be on the practice squad, but it's hard when you've got so many other great receivers in front of you. He got the opportunity to be on the active roster, and he's making the best of it. He's out there week in and week out making plays."

When Swain edged out veteran wide receiver Ruvell Martin for the fifth wide receiver spot this preseason, Head Coach Mike McCarthy pointed to Swain's special-teams contributions as being a deciding factor, and that's where he made his mark right away this season.

In the Packers' Week 1 win over Chicago, Bears running back Garrett Wolfe took a direct snap on fourth-and-11 on a fake punt in the fourth quarter with the Packers trailing 12-10. Swain alertly brought him down for just a 4-yard gain, setting up a field goal to put the Packers in the lead.

"That was a big steppingstone and the start of my career in special teams," Swain said. "I think a play like that can jump start a season and it kicks off everything, from a special-teams standpoint to even on the offensive side of the ball.

"I take a lot of pride in special teams. That is probably the focal point in my game. I make sure that every time I am on that field for special teams, I am going as hard as I can. I don't want to be that guy that lets his guy make the play, and I take that to heart."

{sportsad300}Against Detroit last Sunday, Swain tied for the team lead with a career-high three special teams tackles, including a stop of wide receiver Derrick Williams on the opening kickoff of the second half at the Lions' 23 that earned him the "Big Hit" award for the game from the coaches.

"The tackle he made last week on one of the kickoffs was one of the best I have seen, where he came across the face of the blocker and hit the returner low," special teams coordinator Shawn Slocum said. "He brings tremendous energy and effort, and has been very effective on the punt and kickoff coverage teams.

"I really saw him blossom in the preseason, to the point now where he is very confident in what he is doing and he is doing the same thing over and over again, trying to keep him in the same position."

Swain has seen time on all four phases of special teams this year, and what makes his contributions on the coverage units even more impressive is the fact that he never played on special teams at any level prior to this season. He attributed the lack of experience in that area as being a contributing factor in his not making the team as a rookie.

Swain did return 10 punts as a senior in college, something he said he is also prepared to do with Nelson out, although veteran defensive backs Tramon Williams and Woodson handled those duties against Detroit after Nelson left the game.

Whatever is asked of him this Sunday or for the rest of the season, Swain said the confidence gained over the last year has him feeling prepared, a sentiment echoed by his coaches as well.

"I have great confidence in him," Robinson said. "He hasn't been in there a lot (on offense). It's kind of a tough lineup to crack with what we have ahead of him, but it's not from a lack of confidence.

"I think if Brett is in there, and he may get a chance this week, he'll do a great job. We've got all the confidence in the world in him."

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