West Trying to Beat Odds, Change Minds

Chastin West has proven he can run with his 97-yard touchdown against Arizona, but can he make the team as a long-shot sixth receiver? Behind the eight-ball with the top five receivers solidified, West knows he must "change the minds of the guys upstairs."

Chastin West said he scored a 99-yard touchdown during a Pop Warner game.

The stakes weren't as high as on Friday night, when the Green Bay Packers' wide receiver scored a 97-yard touchdown against Arizona. He didn't jump into the seats back then, either.

"They had the gated fences so I'd probably get a laceration of some sort," West joked.

West, an undrafted rookie out of Fresno State last season, spent all of his rookie year on the practice squad. At season's end, he looked like a strong candidate to not only push for a roster spot but become an integral member of the rotation because James Jones seemed likely to depart in free agency and Brett Swain didn't show much during his second season.

Instead, the Packers used a second-round pick on Randall Cobb and Jones re-signed on the second day of training camp.

Just like that, it appeared that while West would be practicing and playing for the Packers this summer, he'd really be spending training camp auditioning for a roster spot someplace else. With Donald Driver, Greg Jennings, Jordy Nelson, Jones and Cobb, the Packers had their usual five-receiver allotment covered.

"You never want to think that because you always want that loyalty to your team," West said. "Of course, it's a part of the game, part of the preseason, part of how the 53-man roster works. It's like musical chairs. Sometimes, the chair's not going to be there when the music stops."

On Friday night, West's legs didn't stop until he did a Lambeau Leap. Pinned at their 3-yard line because of a special teams penalty, West got behind his former college teammate, Desia Dunn, caught Matt Flynn's pass in stride and raced untouched for the 97-yard touchdown.

"Chastin's had a great camp and showed it tonight," Flynn said after the game. "He showed some speed that we didn't know he had."

No wheels, Chastin?

"My speed kicks in after the 40-yard dash. I'm a 400 runner. That's my answer to that," West said with a laugh.

Friday's performance — he caught all five passes thrown his way for 134 yards and the touchdown — was superb but he's really had a terrific camp. He's got outstanding hands, and at 6-foot-1 and 216 pounds, he's got the strength to bully his way for extra yards after the catch.

And, apparently, he can run faster than his teammates believed.

"I'm proud of Chastin," Aaron Rodgers said. "I think everybody saw towards the end of last year what kind of player he was becoming. He makes a strong case to be on this team. He's been making it since last year. I'm very happy for him."

With the top five receivers entrenched, West knows that every play is a big play.

"You have to make the plays that are given to you," he said. "There's a lot of really, really good receivers on this team. I'm trying to find my niche, trying to find my spot, and I'm going to work hard to do that. I need to do everything possible to change the minds of the guys upstairs."

Therein lies the problem. In Thompson's final rosters in 2005 through 2010, he went with five receivers in all but one season, 2006, when he kept just four. It's hard to keep six receivers when there's such a premium on special teams on the bottom of the roster. Obviously, a 250-pound linebacker or tight end is apt to be a better blocker and tackler than a 210-pound receiver. With Cobb out with bruised knees, West was in the punt return rotation at Tuesday's practice. Otherwise, he's not a No. 1 on any of the four units.

"Once we get to the 53-man roster (and) the active 46, the receivers are going to have to play on special teams," special teams coordinator Shawn Slocum said. "In a lot of cases, it's new for guys that are coming out of college and haven't played a whole lot of special teams and all of a sudden they're thrust into that role."

All of which, not surprisingly, put West in a funk at the start of camp. He had worked hard during the offseason to hopefully do more than just make the roster. Instead, the addition of Cobb and the return of Jones basically meant the top five receivers were set in stone, barring injuries.

"A week into it, I'm thinking that James is back and Brett's back and they drafted Cobb and there's Jordy and Driver and everybody else," West said. "So, it was hard to try not to count heads."

West credited his agent, Michael Hoffman, for getting him in a proper mind-set.

"Chastin is talented and I knew if he just went out there and remained focused on himself that he would rise to the occasion," Hoffman said. "There is nothing gained by thinking about stuff you can't control, and in some cases it can be detrimental to focus on that stuff. Give Chastin all the credit for working through it and coming out on top. He's earned the respect of his teammates and created some buzz, but I expect a great deal more from Chastin this season."

Receivers coach Edgar Bennett has appreciated West's approach.

"We just focus on day-to-day improvement," Bennett said. "We really don't worry too much of that other stuff. All we can do is control what we can control. That's how his preparation is in the meeting room, his performance on the field and leave it at that. That's all you can do. Obviously, he has a great attitude, tremendous work ethic, leaves it all out on the field. He's making strides; he just has to continue to show what he's already doing."

If so, maybe he'll be put in the happy position of being razzed by the Packers' close-knit group of veteran receivers.

"I ran a drag route before (the long touchdown) and they were like, ‘Oh, my gosh, you looked so bad. That juke move that you tried to put on No. 22, it was top-three-worst juke moves and it wasn't third.' It was really bad but, hey, along with the grief they congratulated me. They were the first people down there. That meant a lot to me."


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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 packwriter2002@yahoo.com, or leave him a question in Packer Report's subscribers-only Packers Pro Club forum. Find Bill on Twitter at twitter.com/packerreport.


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