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WRs Martin, Francies Get Their Chance


In the NFL, one player's misfortune can become another's opportunity, and first-year Packers receivers Ruvell Martin and Chris Francies are more than aware of the opportunity now in front of them.

With the suspension of Koren Robinson and the injury to Robert Ferguson, Martin has been elevated to the No. 3 receiver spot behind starters Donald Driver and Greg Jennings while Francies has been signed from the practice squad as the No. 4 receiver.

Neither Martin nor Francies has caught a pass in a regular-season NFL game, but both may have the chance to change that on Sunday at Miami.

"I understand it's pretty big," Martin said. "I definitely have to go out there and first chance I get start making plays and get the quarterback's confidence in me that I can go out there and contribute."

Said Francies: "It's a big opportunity for me. They had to bring a guy up, and luckily it was me. I have to fill a spot and I'll do the best I can."

Though both players are young, Martin has decidedly more experience. He was in San Diego's training camp in 2004 and 2005, spent one season in NFL Europe and was on the Packers' practice squad the final seven weeks of 2005.

He finally made a 53-man roster in training camp this summer, and the Packers coaches like his size (6-foot-4, 217 pounds) and the target he provides for the quarterback, particularly in the red zone.

"My history is strong in the red zone, in college and the time I spent over in NFL Europe," said Martin, who caught 12 touchdown passes for Amsterdam in 2005. "I'd love to carry that over to here. I'm just waiting for my shot, and hopefully I'll get it."

Patience has been a virtue for Martin in his three-year quest to get on an NFL field, and he knows now would be the worst time to let anxiety get the best of him. He said he's not going to mentally blow things out of proportion and try, or expect, to make a name for himself immediately.

"Guys like Driver have been telling me all the time he had to wait, telling me he didn't get a top spot until three or four years ago here, and look what he's doing," Martin said.

"I know the game, I know how it works. It's rare to step in and contribute right away. I've got a good chance here, so I just have to make the best of it."

Francies wants to do the same, though as a non-drafted rookie on an active roster for the first time Wednesday, his chances of making an impact are less than Martin's.

Still, Head Coach Mike McCarthy said Francies has added strength to his 6-1, 193-pound frame in the weight room, and he's improved considerably at beating a cornerback's jam at the line of scrimmage.

"To me, that's a normal transition for a young guy coming out of college," McCarthy said. "There are guys that never get off the bump, and that's why they're not in this league anymore.

"Bump-and-run in my opinion has always been the biggest thing a receiver has to overcome. Greg Jennings has kind of spoiled us a little bit in that area. But I think Chris once again is a young player that has a lot of upside and a bright future."

McCarthy added that the decision to move Francies up from the practice squad was an easy one, and that his flashes at the start of training camp had him in the running to make the team early on. He was coming off a 44-catch, five-touchdown season as a senior at Texas-El Paso.

Like Martin, Francies can play all three receiver positions (known as the 'X', 'Z', and 'zebra') in the Packers offense, and that versatility will only help them get on the field if the need arises.

"The coaches told me they're just going to throw me in there," Francies said. "I'm looking forward to getting in there wherever I may fit."

Where that is remains to be seen. Quarterback Brett Favre said he expects teams to load up their coverages against Driver and Jennings to force the Packers to find other weapons. While the Packers intend to utilize their tight ends and perhaps fullbacks more in the passing game, Martin and Francies will be ready and waiting for the call as well.

"It does make it more difficult," Favre said. "But it gives other guys an opportunity to play and show what they can do."

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