Rookie Receiver Steps Up, KO'd

Just as Robert Ferguson was hitting his stride, Oakland's Raymond Perryman stepped in and ruined Ferguson's best outing of the preseason.

Perryman drew an obvious interference penalty on the Packers' rookie wide receiver with about 8 minutes left in the game by delivering a hit that flattened Ferguson to the Network Associates Coliseum turf well before a pass from quarterback Henry Burris ever got near the two players. Ferguson wound up with a slight concussion, but not as severe as the one that Antonio Freeman suffered when he was hit in a similar way during an Aug. 20 exhibition game against Denver.

Up until that point the Packers' second-round draft pick had three catches for 59 yards, his best single-game output in the preseason. Ferguson's biggest catch of the night occurred early in the fourth quarter when he caught a 40-yard pass down the left sideline from Burris to move the Packers out to their own 49. The play set up Ryan Longwell's 43-yard field goal, Green Bay's only score of the second half.

"He's going to be a good receiver," said Burris. "He has good hands and good feet. Ferguson is a guy who is going to be a pretty good player down the road."

Ferguson had only one catch for three yards in Green Bay's first three exhibition games. His lack of output has left many to wonder if he can make any contribution to the team this year. Ferguson enters the season fifth on the team's depth chart at wide receiver.

It is quite possible that Green Bay's top three draft picks – defensive end Jamal Reynolds, Ferguson and cornerback Bhawoh Jue – will not be activated to play this Sunday when the Packers open the regular season against Detroit.

A few days prior to the final exhibition game at Oakland, quarterback Brett Favre compared Ferguson to former Packers wide receiver Sterling Sharpe, but added, "he's lightyears away from Sterling Sharpe." Favre said it will take Ferguson time before the 21-year-old will prosper in Green Bay's offense like Sharpe did in the late 1980s and early '90s.

"The light hasn't clicked on yet," said Favre. "That's not being negative towards Robert. If it did, he would be the first. There's a great deal of volume in our playbook and within pro football that you have to digest. What's he been here? One minicamp and four or five weeks of training camp? I'm always joking with him, but really in a serious kind of way, 'What are you doing on this particular play?' He'll say, 'Oh, I got it.' He responds with the right answer but when you line up and live bullets are coming at you, he doesn't have it. It's a different ballgame. This is not Texas A&M. He's got a tremendous amount of talent. I've told him that day in and day out, but talent alone doesn't get it done."

Hunt in exile: Defensive tackle Cletidus Hunt began serving his suspension a day after the final exhibition game will not be allowed to resume practicing with the team until Oct. 1. Hunt violated the NFL's substance abuse policy in July. As part of his suspension, he will not be paid, cannot have any kind of contact with anyone from the Packers, and cannot attend practice or be inside the team's facilities.

The Packers arranged for private counselors to be with Hunt during his suspension at an undisclosed sports camp, believed to be in Florida or Arizona.

"I'm disappointed that I'm not going to be here," said Hunt. "I wanted to open (the season) with the guys and go at it and celebrate the win, which I know they're going to do. I'm just going to watch the game and pretend I'm still there.

"It's going to be hard. I'm going to watch them. When they mess up, I'll call them on the cell phone, leave a message on the phone and tease them a little bit."

In between the teasing, Hunt will be going through the same kind of routine that he has been at practice – a combination of weight-lifting and football drills. The Packers reportedly arranged for him to receive substance abuse counseling beyond the NFL requirements.

"I'm not real jacked up about the NFL policy dealing with suspended players," said Packers coach/GM Mike Sherman. "Unfortunately, he's a victim of issues in our society. You wouldn't treat a regular person by isolating him from all the people who care about him.

"What I'm trying to do is keep structure and discipline in his life so when he's out there he is accountable. He has to be at places at a certain time; his meals, his workouts, his education is all monitored."

Hunt will forfeit $91,529 (four weeks pay) of his $389,000 base salary for this season. The Packers do not have to hold a roster spot for Hunt until he completes the suspension. Injury update: Tight end David Martin did not suit up against the Raiders because of a shoulder injury that he suffered Aug. 25 in an exhibition game against Miami. Martin said he could have played against the Raiders and expects to be ready to go for the opener Sunday against the Lions.

Other players who missed Friday's game because of nagging injuries, but will be ready to play against the Lions included, Ahman Green (groin), Dorsey Levens (broken hand), Na'il Diggs (groin), Allen Rossum (hamstring), and Jamal Reynolds (knee).

Defensive tackle Santana Dotson began taking part in practice drills Aug. 28 and may be ready to play in the opener. Dotson has been rehabbing his right thigh, an injury that he suffered late last November against Carolina.

"I think we should be OK for next week," Dotson said.

Busy man: Because of Green Bay's inability to convert on third downs, punter Josh Bidwell was on the field quite often against the Raiders. Bidwell, who won the punting job this year over Kevin Stemke, punted eight times for 335 yards (41.9-yard avg.). He had three punts inside the 20 yard line.

Bidwell finished the preseason with a net average of 44.4 yards on 17 punts and five inside the 20 yard line. He is entering his second full season as the team's punter after missing his rookie year because of testicular cancer.

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