At 6-foot-4 and 217 pounds, wide receiver Ruvell Martin knows he must use his body to his advantage.
He doesn't need anyone on the Packers coaching staff to tell him it's his best asset, and that he has to make it look that way on the field.
"We have an understanding I'm a big body out there and I'm expected to play that way," Martin said. "I expect myself to play that way. Once that ball is in the air I feel like it's mine, and when it's not I get pretty upset, because I feel like I should be able to make all those catches."
Martin is one of six receivers on the roster with one or fewer years of NFL experience battling for anywhere from two to four roster spots. His ability to win a lot of jump balls is a reason the Packers brought him onto the practice squad midway through 2005 and are giving him a legitimate shot in 2006 to make the final roster.
Like many of the rookie free agents, he's had his good days and bad days. He has flashed at times, catching three passes for 36 yards in the Family Night scrimmage. In a homecoming of sorts in the preseason opener at San Diego (Martin spent time in the 2004 and 2005 preseasons with the Chargers), he added one catch-and-run for 13 yards in limited snaps. On Wednesday during team drills, he nearly made a nice sliding catch along the sideline of a pass thrown by Brian Wrobel, but couldn't quite hang on.
While he hopes more big plays are to come beginning this week against Atlanta, Martin keeps his focus on simply doing what he's asked to do, even some of the things receivers aren't necessarily noticed for.
"He plays hard in the run game, plays special teams, gives you some value in a lot of areas, and that's what you're looking for in a backup receiver," receivers coach Jimmy Robinson said.
"He's a little unusual because he's tall and got long arms, and not everybody has that type of physique. So he does present some problems for DBs."
Martin caught a couple of passes from Brett Favre during team drills on Wednesday, and he feels he's starting to develop some chemistry with the veteran quarterback. But it's been an ongoing process that Martin hopes he'll have enough time to complete.
"He's a leader that tries to get everybody involved," Martin said of Favre. "He's a coach on the field and off the field, in the meeting rooms, telling guys what he wants done and how it's going to be.
"The main thing is everybody being on the same page, so a lot of times after a play is done I'll go over and just make sure that's how it is. I know (Robert) Ferguson and (Donald) Driver and those guys have a long history with Brett, and they know exactly what he wants, so I just want to make sure I'm on the same page with him too."
Try, try again
Head Coach Mike McCarthy admitted that if the Packers' running game is going to succeed, he'll need to be more persistent with it in calling the plays. The running backs only had 14 carries in 49 offensive snaps against San Diego last Saturday.
"The most important statistic in my opinion in running the football is attempts," McCarthy said. "I have to do a better job of giving us more opportunities to run the ball."
Preseason is still a difficult gauge, because there's so much substituting going on there's no way to tell how much the ground game might be wearing down an opponent, even if the yardage isn't substantial at first. But third-down efficiency is also key to providing more first- and second-down running opportunities, and the Packers converted only three of 13 third downs (23 percent).
"I've said before it's a four-quarter commitment to the run game, and I think we're going to be fine there," McCarthy said. "You just have to convert on third down and keep running the ball."
During the team drills against the scout team, Favre and rookie receiver Greg Jennings tried to connect on a deep post route, as Jennings angled toward an open middle of the field from the right side, but Favre overthrew him by several yards.
A few plays later, they ran a similar pattern with Jennings coming from the left side, and Favre's deep ball hit him in stride for a big play.
Among the spectators at practice on Wednesday were Marquette basketball coach Tom Crean, Wisconsin-Green Bay coach Tod Kowalczyk, and NASCAR driver and Wisconsin native Matt Kenseth, who had a NASCAR film crew following him around and recording his every move, including a conversation with former Packers general manager Ron Wolf, who has attended practice the past couple of days.
Wide receiver Robert Ferguson (heel) returned to practice. Tight end Tory Humphrey has a heavy wrap or cast on his right forearm but is continuing to practice. Cornerback Ahmad Carroll had an ice pack wrapped on his upper left leg during the last portions of practice but removed it before practice was over.