Re-charged returner, receiver

Nobody enjoyed the off-season more than Antonio Chatman. After playing in 42 straight games between arena league football and the marathon NFL season, the 5-foot-9 Chatman was burst-less. Re-charged thanks to rest and a solid workout program, Chatman's burst is back.<p>

Chatman, 25, is battling a number of wide receivers for the No. 4 receiver spot behind Donald Driver, Robert Ferguson and Javon Walker. Coach and general manager Mike Sherman has said many times during training camp that he prefers the fourth receiver serve a dual role as return specialist as well. Chatman's ability as a sure-handed punt returner combined with his progress at wide receiver has given him an early edge over Carl Ford, Scottie Vines and Shockmain Davis.

Probably the biggest difference in Chatman, a second-year pro, from last year to training camp this year is his strength and quickness. He was a receiver and return specialist for the Chicago Rush during the spring of 2003, then signed as a free agent with the Packers when the arena league season finished.

By the time the Packers' season ended in Philadelphia on Jan. 11 of this year, Chatman, entering his second NFL sea was physically and mentally out of gas. Now, his tank is full and the improvement is noticeable.

"There's no question he's a lot better," said wide receivers coach Ray Sherman. "He's healthier, he's faster, he's had a chance to rest this past off-season. He really showed some great strides in our last minicamp. He's taking it to the next level. The quarterbacks trust him and he's doing a good job. I really wouldn't hesitate to put him into a ballgame at all."

With Chatman as the No. 4 receiver, the Packers would be able to suit up another player for their 45-man game-day roster instead of a fourth wide receiver and Chatman.

Chatman handled the ball 87 times (98 including the postseason) on returns and did not fumble. He ranked ninth amoung NFC punt returners with an 8.4-yard average. As a receiver Chatman did not catch any passes.

It's been a different story, so far, for him, so far, in training camp.

"He makes plays out here every day," said Sherman. "He's learned the position. In the off-season I told him, ‘Hey listen, you can't make (the team) as a specialist. You've got to help us as a receiver if you're going to be on the team and be able to do both. We'll see. I'm not annointing him as the fourth receiver but he has certainly helped himself with the plays that he has made out there.

"He seems to be more explosive than he was last year coming out of the (arena league)."

For Chatman, his camp couldn't be going any better.

"Last year, I came in here and it was like, ‘OK, you just catch punts,' and that's all they wanted me to do. This year they see I'm fresh, so now they see I can play receiver. Now they've been putting me out there and I'm just making plays right now."


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