Wide Receivers Look To Step Up In Ferguson's Absence


With Robert Ferguson out two to four weeks with a sprained knee, the other Green Bay Packers wide receivers will have to rise to the occasion.

"We're all filling each other's shoes now," wide receiver Donald Driver said. "It's a lot of pressure on all of us."

Jamal Jones will assume some of that responsibility. The first-year player becomes the No. 3 receiver -- part of his rapid rise up the depth chart. The Packers waived him on Sept. 3, signed him to the practice squad on Sept. 13 and signed him to the active roster on Oct. 4.

"I know the plays," he said. "I'm ready."

Jones has not caught a pass this season but has played effectively on special teams. He returned three kickoffs for 55 yards on Sunday before a fumbling a fourth-quarter kick, which defensive lineman Kenny Peterson recovered. On that play, he saw the seam, but the outside defender turned him around. In that position he could not brace himself, and tight end Richard Owens forced a fumble.

"I definitely don't want to do that ever again," Jones said.

The seven-year veteran Driver has instructed the young receivers like Jones and Antonio Chatman to forget about the big stadium crowds and lights and focus on their abilities.

"Play your game," Driver said.

The young receivers, however, may not have to fill Ferguson's void for very long.

"Ferguson has done some miraculous things and pulled some miraculous stunts in the past where he's come out there and made quick recoveries," Head Coach Mike Sherman said. "Hopefully this will be the case."

Indeed Ferguson walked around the locker room with a limp but without crutches. The doctors have only restricted him by saying he cannot bend his knee. He sprained the ligament on the outside of the knee, the lateral collateral ligament (LCL), which heals faster than the other ligaments. Ferguson has not even ruled himself out for Sunday.

"If I'm 80 percent, 70 percent, 60 percent, there are certain routes I can run in the offense," he said. "I'm not going to be hard-headed or stupid about it."

One player who will receive a lot of action is Driver. Driver had one of his best games, catching eight passes for 114 yards and a touchdown on Sunday. His one-handed, 22-yard touchdown catch of a Brett Favre bullet capped an eight-play, 96-yard-drive. In the second quarter Driver caught a ball thrown behind him and broke three tackles on his way to a 40-yard gain.

Driver leads the team with 456 receiving yards.

"I can't say enough about Donald Driver," Sherman said. "He's played a heck of season for us so far. I'm real, real pleased with Donald on the field, off the field, in the locker room. He's everything you will look for in a guy."

Defenses may try and double-team Driver, the Packers' best healthy receiver, or provide over-the-top safety help. In the second half the Minnesota Vikings occasionally used safety Darren Sharper in that capacity. Sherman said they can move Driver around to free him up, perhaps even using him in the slot.

"He'll never be static," Sherman said.

Without Ferguson, though, the Packers will miss a big target. The 6-1, 210-pound wide receiver used his body to outmuscle safety Corey Chavous for a 44-yard reception on third-and-8 off a play-action fake during the second quarter. He injured his knee on that play.

But Ferguson has not hung his head. Instead he will simply ready himself to play as soon as he can.

"I never sit down and ask 'why' or 'why me'," he said.

If the rest of the Packers receivers accept that attitude, they quickly will fill Ferguson's void.

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