And that's where everything went wrong. In the preseason finale at Kansas City, he caught just one of the six passes thrown his way for 7 yards, and a false start doomed a shot for Green Bay to score a touchdown late in the first half.
"I thought I had a good preseason up until the Kansas City game, when I showed some rookie mistakes, if you will," West told Packer Report in our latest lockout exclusive on Wednesday. "I had some penalties and wasn't really playing how I should have been playing, and that ultimately led, in my mind, to not making the opening-day roster and winding up on the practice squad."
Chastin West is interviewed on Media Day. Scott Halleran/Getty Images
The time on the practice squad was time well spent for a player who caught 79 passes for 1,008 yards and six touchdowns in 36 games at Fresno State. The eight-man unit often can be a revolving door but West was good enough to spend the entire season on the practice squad. He was signed to a three-year futures contract after the season and received a Super Bowl ring for his contributions in helping the team get ready.
West did more than just give a look to the defense during the week, though. In the never-ending process of player evaluation, coach Mike McCarthy, offensive coordinator Joe Philbin and former receivers coach Jimmy Robinson would give West reps with Aaron Rodgers and the No. 1 offense during practice.
"I was thankful for that, and as a result of me being on the practice squad, I got to practice against some really good corners and really good players, like Nick (Collins) and Charles (Woodson) and Tramon (Williams) and Sam (Shields)," West said. "That got me a lot better. I would hope that I gave them a good look and contributed as much as I could. I did what I could. I had some good days — more good days than I had bad days."
West also grew while with the Packers' tightly knit receivers corps. In a position group that often can be driven by egomaniacs and prima donnas, West spent plenty of time joking, playing games and learning from established stars like Donald Driver and Greg Jennings in the locker room and practice field.
"It's easy to fit in with guys that are really accepting and that don't have other agendas," West said. "They want the team to get better. They know that as a whole, we all need to get better. I just tried to follow along. I don't think I could have been in a better place to see how pros conduct themselves. They know when to have fun and they know when to be serious, and they know how to distinguish between the two very well."
West, like most young players, has been hurt by the lockout, which has barred him from working with the coaches and testing himself in full-squad practices. He's kept active by playing softball and basketball, as well as practicing with former Fresno State teammates Ryan Mathews and Seyi Ajirotutu, who play running back and receiver, respectively, for the San Diego Chargers.
If veteran James Jones departs in free agency, West will be battling incumbent Brett Swain to be the fifth receiver with Driver, Jennings, Jordy Nelson and second-round pick Randall Cobb. If Jones returns, West faces an uphill battle.
"It's not just to make the team, it's to contribute," West said of his goal for training camp. "If you're going to go around saying, ‘OK, I'm just going to try to make the team,' then your career isn't going to be very long. I want to contribute because I know that I can. Just like any other NFL player, I believe in my abilities. I'm looking forward to getting that opportunity, and this time I'm going to capitalize on it."
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Bill Huber is publisher of Packer Report magazine and PackerReport.com and has written for Packer Report since 1997. E-mail him at firstname.lastname@example.org, or leave him a question in Packer Report's subscribers-only Packers Pro Club forum. Find Bill on Twitter at twitter.com/packerreport.