GREEN BAY – There’s nothing easy about playing wide receiver in the NFL. And there’s nothing easy about trying to earn a roster spot as a seventh-round draft choice with everything prove and a limited amount of time in training camp to do so.
Pile on top of that a pair of nagging injuries (toe, hamstring) that conspired to end his rookie season before it even began, and you understand what last year was like for wide receiver Kevin Dorsey.
After he ended up spending the entire year on injured reserve, Dorsey has been 100 percent healthy throughout training camp this year and is feeling good, learning and taking advantage of his opportunities. If he is going to be one of the wide receivers who makes the 53-man roster coming out of training camp – given his special-teams contributions, he has a strong case if the team keeps six receivers – he knows he’ll have to seize any opportunities that come his way in Thursday’s preseason finale against Kansas City at Lambeau Field.
“I feel OK,” Dorsey replied when asked to assess his training camp. “Obviously still room for improvement, room to work.
“[I’m] just making the best and the most of every opportunity you get.”
In the Packers first two preseason games, Dorsey was targeted six times and caught four passes catches for 41 yards, including an 18-yard reception at St. Louis on Aug. 16. He didn’t see the ball come his way last week against Oakland..
But he did make an impact against the Raiders on the special teams. This summer Dorsey has worked as a blocker with first-team kick return, seen time on both the punt coverage and kickoff coverage units and has even worked as a returner, with two kickoff returns for 43 yards against Oakland.
“It’s a blessing to have an opportunity in the first place,” he said of playing special teams earlier in the week. “You got to take it. Take the coaching. Take any assignment that you have regardless if you know what it is. Whether it’d be something that you think is a big or a minor role, it is to help the team.
“You do anything that you can just to seize that chance and that opportunity.”
While his reps are limited on offense in practice, Dorsey is still learning even when he’s not running routes.
“Definitely by watching,” he said of learning from veteran receivers. “They go out every single day and they do it and they lead by example. Especially Jordy [Nelson], as far as route running and just education as far as football. I say it all the time, he is one of the smartest people on the field. If he wanted to, he probably could play quarterback.
“The things that he sees and how he reads it, to have someone like him to look up to and to watch how he runs routes and just what he is thinking on certain plays definitely helps a younger player.”
Nelson, Randall Cobb, Jarrett Boykin and Davante Adams, a rookie second-round pick, are locks to make the final 53-man roster. Dorsey is battling Myles White and Alex Gillett, both of whom were on the practice squad last year before White was elevated to the roster, as well as rookie seventh-round pick Jeff Janis. The Packers have traditionally kept only five wide receivers but did keep six coming out of camp in 2012. Wide receivers Gerrard Sheppard and Chris Harper were among the players released this week.
“It’s not something that I worry about,” Dorsey said of the depth chart at wide receiver. “I just go out and take every opportunity.”
Under general manager Ted Thompson, the Packers have selected four wide receivers in the seventh-round of the NFL draft, including Dorsey and Charles Johnson last year and Janis this year. Swain last played for the Packers in 2011 and caught eight career passes for 87 yards. Johnson was signed off the practice squad season by the Cleveland Browns but missed all of last season after Browns doctors discovered a torn anterior cruciate ligament in his knee during his physical. Janis had an impressive 34-yard touchdown in his only target in one preseason game.
For Dorsey to earn a roster spot, he’ll have to continue to play well on special teams and also make an impression at receiver Thursday night.
“There is always something you can fine tune,” said Dorsey, who is also practice-squad eligible if he doesn’t make the 53-man roster. “As far as footwork, or getting your hands inside for blocks and different things like reading the coverage a little bit faster to make the transition a little bit smoother. Just looking the ball in and everything else.”
Tony Cartagena covers the Packers for ESPNWisconsin.com. Follow him on Twitter at Twitter.com/TonyCartagena