Rethinking Travis Dorsch

The departure of punter Josh Bidwell has turned Travis Dorsch from an also-ran to a front-runner in Green Bay.<P>

Dorsch signed with the Packers on the eve of what turned out to be their final game of '03. He missed a rumored chance at the limelight when Green Bay lost to the Eagles in the NFC Divisional playoffs Jan. 11. No one outside the organization will ever know if the Packers were really going to put Dorsch on the active roster before the NFC Championship game.

Now he'll get his chance one way or another. With the pre-draft minicamp just around the corner, Dorsch is the only punter on the roster. That will change either through the current free agent market, the draft or the post-draft fire sale on undrafted rookie free agents. In either case, Dorsch will enter the competition with a leg up. The premium free-agent punters are taken (Matt Turk) or priced out of the Packers' range (Darren Bennett). The team is unlikely to spend a more valuable pick on a punter. That means Dorsch is likely to go up against a late, late rounder or an undrafted rookie free agent in the Packers' punting derby.

Dorsch was Cincinnati's fourth round pick in the 2002 draft out of Purdue, where he won the Ray Guy award his senior year as the nation's best punter. He got off to a rocky start in Cincinnati, to put it mildly. Dorsch was cut in the preseason, but was brought back for one game his rookie year. It couldn't have been much worse; he had two line-drive punts returned for touchdowns. The Bengals cut him again in the final roster reduction of 2003. He landed on New England's practice squad late in the season, and was cut a few weeks later, Dec. 15.

The bad start isn't necessarily a bad sign, Packers' special teams coach John Bonamego said. Also Bonamego called Dorsch a "project," the coach also said that the bumpy road followed by Dorsch so far is not unusual for specialty positions. He said many bounce around at first while teams go with proven veterans, then find a situation that gives them a chance – like this one.

The Packers like Dorsch's leg strength, especially his ability to kickoff deep. That could alleviate one of Ryan Longwell's only weaknesses. Dorsch, 6 feet 6 inches and 221 pounds, fizzled in Cincinnati after being drafted in the fourth round in 2002 from Purdue. Signed by Green Bay on Jan. 10, he has been driving from his home in West Lafayette, Ind., to work out with special teams coach John Bonamego in Green Bay. Dorsch has been doing his best to take advantage of the opportunity. He has making the 5-hour drive from his home in West LaFayette, Ind. to Green Bay for off-season workouts.

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