GREEN BAY – Remember when coach Mike McCarthy said Randall Cobb would be the Green Bay Packers’ one and only return man when healthy.
Not so fastm
Fill-in Jeremy Ross has been so good on returns since Cobb suffered ankle and knee injuries in the third quarter of the Packers’ Dec. 23 victory over Tennessee that McCarthy said Wednesday that Ross is “an option” to share return duties with Cobb during Saturday night’s NFC Wild Card playoff game against the Minnesota Vikings at Lambeau Field.
This isn’t so much a philosophical shift by McCarthy, who insisted that the Packers weren’t going to “play scared” and take Cobb off returns for fear of injury, as it’s a testament to how good Ross has been the last two weeks.
“I thought Jeremy Ross played extremely well in the return game. That’s definitely an option,” McCarthy said. “You can’t be naïve to the fact that what he accomplished the last two weeks in the return game. So, that’s something we’ve talked about and something we’ve prepared for.”
How such a job-sharing arrangement would work is unclear, but special teams coordinator Shawn Slocum suggested that Ross earned a look on both kickoffs and punts. But, Slocum said, it’s on punts here Ross has impressed him the most.
Cobb practiced again on Wednesday and is expected to play against the Vikings after sitting out on Sunday. He figures to be listed as probable when the official injury report comes out on Friday.
“We can use both guys. I think in the last two ballgames Jeremy’s production has demonstrated that he’s capable of being an impactful returner, and that helps us because it gives us more depth in the position,” Slocum said. “We’ll look at Randall, where he’s at as we get closer to game time in terms of his physical situation. We’ll move forward. I’m glad Jeremy has had some production there, so it helps us.
“In my dealings with him, (Ross) has an excellent progression with his mindset on the punt return play. That’s the most difficult. The challenge on the kickoff is the physical part of it, of getting hit with guys running full speed at you. But the punt return, things are moving in all different directions. He’s got a great mindset for playing that play. I feel confident with him.”
Ross’ highlights on Sunday were a 44-yard kickoff return and a 32-yard punt return. The punt return led to the Packers’ first touchdown. Against the Titans after Cobb went down, Ross broke loose for a 58-yard punt return.
“It’s given me an opportunity to get my foot in the door and just show people, show the coaches that I can handle these pressure situations and also I can perform,” said Ross, a practice-squad call-up who entered the league as an undrafted free agent from California-Berkeley. “I’m always going to be trying to prove myself, I’m never going to be content as far as my performance. I’m always going to be out there every single play (saying), ‘All right, I’ve got to do more, I’ve got to do more.’ And never be satisfied.
“I think the way that I performed last week and the week before definitely helped them feel a little bit more secure with being able to put me in that situation.”
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