With a combined 25 years of Packers playing experience, it should serve as no surprise that William Henderson has formed a connection with Brett Favre on passing routes.
Henderson tapped into that connection again on Sunday night, catching four passes for 38 yards, including one of the game's most important plays.
Throughout his 11-year career, Henderson has served as a valuable receiving threat out of the backfield. He may have fewer opportunities, but this year is no exception.
"I've always done that," Henderson said. "The goal was to put me in more situations to be even more fresh and get bigger yards."
To maximize Henderson's skills, the coaching staff increasingly has used second-year fullback Vonta Leach as a blocking back to spell Henderson. The coaching staff has diminished Henderson's time on the field but not his impact.
"He's still a good blocker," offensive coordinator Tom Rossley said. "You'll still see plays where William got a great block, but to do it down after down after down, he doesn't have that. It wears down on him. If we can keep him healthy, keep him fresh, he'll give us those couple of key catches."
Henderson has made key catches throughout this season and his career. On par with his averages during each season, he has 26 catches for 224 yards during 2005. On Sunday Henderson passed Billy Howton for 10th in team history with 304 catches. Along with those receptions, he has 2,307 receiving yards and churned out many of those by eluding tacklers after the catch.
"He's got that knack of making people miss," Rossley said. "He's got a little shuffle when he gets there."
Henderson demonstrated that skill on Sunday night during overtime. With a third-and-7 at the Green Bay 38-yard line, Favre found Henderson for 8 yards to sustain the drive.
"(It) was the play of the game as well as the fourth-and-goal goal line stand we had," Head Coach Mike Sherman said. "(He) had three guys coming at him and found a way to get us a first down."
On the play, Detroit Lions linebacker Earl Holmes made a speed rush move. Henderson chipped him and then spotted an opening in the flat. Favre went through his reads before checking down to Henderson -- his third read on the play. Henderson caught the pass and broke outside, using a stiff arm to ward off defenders going at his legs. He then twisted, torquing his body until he had passed the first-down marker.
"I basically took advantage of the moment," he said.
Henderson still possesses the speed and agility to churn out yards after the catch. But the wily veteran also relies on the knowledge he has amassed during 11 years of diligent film study and repeated competition against NFC North opponents.
"I'm familiar with most of those guys from years of playing against them in the past," Henderson said.
Does the 252-pounder relish every bruising fullback's dream of receiving so many opportunities to catch the football? Not exactly. He still sees himself as a blocking back, but he will do whatever the coaching staff asks of him.
"It's fun, but it's not what I want to do 100 percent of the time," Henderson said. "It's not something I need to do or have to do in order to be happy. But if it helps the team out, I'm more than willing to accept that responsibility."
Davenport On The Mend
Running back Najeh Davenport walked into the Packers locker room without crutches and with his right ankle in a boot, showing he has made significant strides toward recovering from ankle reconstruction surgery.
Most patients who undergo ankle reconstructions do not start walking until three or four months after surgery, but Davenport began walking by six or seven weeks.
"I'm ahead of schedule," Davenport said.
Now 10 weeks out of surgery, Davenport spends much of his time rehabbing. He works both on improving his ankle motion and leg strength. His lower body has weakened due to inactivity.
"I've been off of it for a couple of months," he said. "My muscles have kind of deflated a little bit so I'm just trying to build those back up."
Davenport was scheduled to see his doctors on Friday to determine whether his ankle has calcified. If calcification has taken place, they will remove a screw inserted during surgery to stabilize his ankle.
He, however, does not know when he will receive clearance to begin running.
"The doc's been kind of elusive with that question," he said.
Anxious to return to full health, Davenport has peppered his doctor with that question and many others.
"I bug him all the time," Davenport said. "He said it's like having another son."
Davenport's ankle buckled when New Orleans Saints linebacker Courtney Watson tackled him following a two-yard-gain with 2:56 remaining in the second quarter of the Oct. 9 game. He sustained ligament damage and fractures to his lower fibula, and doctors inserted pins and a screw to stabilize it.
Davenport finished with 30 carries for 105 yards and two touchdowns during the 2005 season.