Top Draft Picks Get Green Light

JACKSONVILLE, Fla. – Jamal Reynolds and Robert Ferguson are officially professional football players. The Packers' top two draft picks each suited up for the first time Monday night and had significant roles in Green Bay's victory over the Jacksonville Jaguars.

Reynolds, taken with the 10th overall pick in last April's NFL draft, entered the game midway through the first quarter in the team's dime defense for veteran John Thierry. He played more when Thierry suffered a sprained knee in the second quarter.

Reynolds saved his biggest play for last when he sacked Jaguars quarterback Mark Brunell with 41 seconds remaining. Brunell fumbled the ball away and linebacker Nate Wayne recovered on the Jaguars' 39 to seal the win. It was a homecoming of sorts for Reynolds, who starred at Florida State. His sack came against ex-Seminole, left tackle Todd Fordham.

"It shows the hard work pays off," said Reynolds. "I've been working with (defensive line coach) Jethro (Franklin) after practice, me and Kabeer (Gbaja-Biamila), just putting in the extra time. Finally getting a chance to show what I did ... the hard work. It's great."

Reynolds got his chance to play because nose tackle Gilbert Brown is closer to normal from a groin and thigh injury that has slowed him down in recent weeks. Coach Mike Sherman said he was able to suit up an extra defensive end, instead of interior lineman Rod Walker, who was not activated for the game.

Ferguson played in his first game for the Packers sharing punt return duties with Antonio Freeman and kickoff returns with running back Dorsey Levens. Ferguson finished by returning one punt for four yards. He had two kickoff returns for 32 yards. Ferguson made or signaled for fair catches on four other punts.

"These players can help us in the next six weeks," said Sherman. "Opportunity came for Jamal Reynolds ... because the interior of the defensive line didn't suck up another defensive player, we could afford the luxury to have our eighth lineman be an outside rusher. I thought he helped us.

"Ferguson's opportunity came because of the punt returning and the kickoff returning. So I thought both took advantage of their opportunities today."

The Packers entered their Monday night game ranked 29th in punt return average (7.7 yards) and 31st in kickoff return average (16.4 yards).

The Packers' top return specialist Allen Rossum strained ligaments in his right knee in the Packers' Thanksgiving Day win over Detroit. He is expected to be sidelined through the month of December.

Freeman, Ferguson, practice squad player James Rooths and Corey Bradford handled the majority of the returns in practice during the week leading up to the Monday night game. But the Packers waited until just before game time to name their punt and kickoff returner.

For the most part, Ferguson didn't make any mistakes, which is all the coaching staff could hope for. Ferguson, taken with the 47th overall pick, did not take any snaps as a wide receiver.

"I'd say I helped the team win, that's the main thing," Ferguson said. "I'm looking forward to getting on the field anyway I can right now. Just try to move up the ladder."

Reynolds was held on his first official play from scrimmage by right tackle Maurice Williams but there was no call. Later in the first quarter, Reynolds beat Williams to hit Brunell as he threw incomplete on third down.

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